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Class Action Proceeds against Facebook over its Face Recognition Technology

Kelly Anthony, Esq. | Deputy General Counsel

Plaintiffs Adam Pezen, Carolo Licata and Nimesh Patel filed a class-action lawsuit against social network giant Facebook, Inc. to end the company’s collection, use and storage of its users’ sensitive identity information. The litigation, which is proceeding through discovery in the Northern District of California, is set for a jury trial on October 2, 2017.

According to the complaint, Facebook violated the Illinois Biometric Information Act, 740 ILSC 14/1, et seq. (“BIPA”), by using proprietary facial recognition software to extract from user-uploaded photographs certain unique identifiers associated with a person’s face, or their “faceprint,” for its so-called “Tag Suggestions” feature. With the feature, once a user uploads a picture on its social media site, the company will suggest the name of certain individuals who appear in the photo for the user to identify, i.e. “tag,” using its facial recognition software.

The plaintiffs’ allege, among other things, that the company violated BIPA because it did not inform its users in writing that it was collecting and storing their facial feature data in a “faceprint database.” Further, the plaintiffs’ claim that Facebook failed to obtain a written release from each consumer identified to “collect, capture and otherwise obtain their biometric[s]” before launching and automatically enrolling them in its program.

Despite the purported disregard for its users privacy rights, the plaintiffs’ argue that the company continues to exploit its consumers’ sensitive identity information—introducing a new photo-sharing mobile device application that takes advantage of the face recognition software in June of 2015, called “Moments.”

The plaintiffs in this action seek up to $5,000 in statutory damages per intentional or reckless BIPA violation and other injunctive or other equitable relief as is necessary to protect the interests of the class members.

The case is: In re: Facebook Biometric Information Privacy Litigation, Docket No. 3:15-cv-03747 (N.D. Cal.)

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