Social media giant Facebook could now face a lawsuit regarding the illegal collection of biometric data of its users. A federal appeals court rejected the company’s arguments on Thursday to stop a class-action lawsuit.
A long uphill battle
The lawsuit in question has been long embattling the cause of illegal collection of biometric data since 2015. The original suit began as residents of Illinois sued the company for violating the Biometric Information Privacy Act of the state.
They alleged that Facebook was violating the law by automatically collecting user’s pictures and even identifying people in them. However, after several efforts by the company to subjugate the case, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has greenlighted the case.
The court stated,
“We conclude that the development of face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests. Similar conduct is actionable at common law.”
In April, Slate published an article by April Glaser highlighting how the company already has the largest database of faces in the world. This could be a huge concern for user privacy and must alert regulations.
Support in favor of the suit
The American Civil Liberties Union has favored the court’s ruling. Staff attorney for ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project Nathan Freed Wessler said that the court’s decision recognizes the threats related to face surveillance technology. He added,
“The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises the chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale. Both corporations and the government are now on notice that this technology poses unique risks to people’s privacy and safety.”
Explaining why Facebook could be interested in such a technology, Siva Vaidhyanathan said that the company wants to lead the identity verification market on the internet. It gives them wider access to people’s preference, as individuals and as groups. This could be used to develop services further and target ads even better.
The company hasn’t started selling its face recognition data, but advertisers are allowed to target populations based on it. Moreover, the company allows this information to be used for researching and developing new services. The company will appeal to the 9th Circuit Court’s decision yet again.
In such worrying circumstances, Facebook wants to double up as a financial services provider with its new cryptocurrency. US lawmakers, as well as President Trump, have questioned the company’s plans.