Facebook has maneuvered its legal conflicts over biometric data collection onto its home turf. This week the three class action lawsuits over its face tagging features were transferred from Illinois to California.
The lawsuits were filed over alleged privacy violations stemming from Facebook’s collection of facial biometric data for use in its photo tagging features, which automatically identify individuals in images uploaded to the social network. The plaintiffs say Facebook’s practices violate Illinois laws regulating the collection of biometric data. Facebook, meanwhile, has recourse to a couple of defensive arguments: One is that – as Shutterfly has argued in a similar case against that photo-sharing company – Illinois’s biometrics laws assert that faces in photographs can’t be considered biometric identifiers; Facebook may also be able to argue that its user agreement covers its activities in this area, since the Illinois laws permit biometric data collection when it’s done with user consent.
It isn’t clear how the venue transfer will affect the outcome of the cases. Facebook requested the transfer as part of its user agreement stipulates that court cases between the company and its users must be tried in Northern California, where the company’s headquarters are located; and the plaintiffs agreed, intending to see the cases go ahead as quickly as possible. In any case, many eyes will be watching these cases play out as they are part of a larger trend of biometric technologies running up against privacy rights and civil liberties more broadly.
Source: Cook County Record