Lawsuit Challenging Facebook's Facial Recognition System Moving Forward

The Verge
A judge in California has thrown out the motion of dismissal in the lawsuit against Facebook's facial recognition system. The lawsuit is suggesting that the biometric faceprint that Facebook creates to allow suggested tags is illegal as it creates the faceprint without consent. According to the local government in Illinois, this is against their Biometric Information Privacy Act. To many people this lawsuit might seem a little ridiculous as the faceprint is mentioned in Facebook's data policy, but there could be a point to this lawsuit.

When you see suggested tags on your photos on Facebook, they're taken from the faceprint pulled from the user's individual photos. This means that that whether you want them to or not, users can tag you on Facebook's suggestion. This is essentially what Illinois have a problem with. You as a user haven't given direct consent for this user to tag photos of you and if it's on a night out, you might not want that photo of you tagged let alone posted online. This is something we're all used to now and it's easy enough to untag yourself or ask the user to remove it. What Illinois would prefer however, would be if Facebook received your permission before it could suggest that people tag you in their photos. This would of course make a lot of people more comfortable and that's totally fair.

Facebook have pointed out that the faceprint is referenced in their data policy and users can opt out of it, but it's not exactly clear. Facebook think that their terms and conditions should be enough for the faceprint to be legal as they only need to obey California and federal laws, but this doesn't appear to be the case.

If Illinois do win this case, then it will have a definitive effect. The facial recognition system is one of Facebook's biggest products and one that has been emulated by many other companies like Twitter and Google. The only thing that has been decided for the moment is that Facebook is definitely going to court over this, but it seems likely that the Illinois courts won't win. Facebook are determined that their terms and conditions as well as the fact they're based in California and not Illinois should protect them. This is a huge case though and one that Facebook need to win.


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