Google Can't Take 'Faceprint' Battle To Appellate Court

A federal judge has refused to authorize Google to immediately appeal his ruling in a battle over whether the company's facial recognition technology violates an Illinois privacy law.

The order, issued this week by U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang, means that Illinois residents Lindabeth Rivera and Joseph Weiss can continue with a class-action complaint accusing Google of running afoul of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.

That law, passed in 2008, requires companies to obtain written releases from people before collecting certain biometric data, including fingerprints, voiceprints and scans of face geometry. But the law also specifically excludes "photos" from the definition of "biometric identifiers, and excludes information derived from photos from a separate definition of "biometric information."

Google initially argued that Illinois lawmakers didn't intend to regulate faceprints that were created from photos. Instead, according to Google, the law only covers faceprints derived from in-person scans.

Chang rejected that position, ruling that the law covers "scans of facial geometry" regardless of how they are created.

Google then asked Chang to authorize an immediate appeal to the 7th Circuit. The company said that questions about whether the Illinois law covers faceprints created from photos should be decided by the appellate court.

Chang refused to do so, ruling that there was no "substantial ground" for a difference of opinion about whether the Illinois law applied to faceprints derived from photos.

"There is literally no precedent on Google’s side when it argues that, in order to qualify as a 'biometric identifier,' scans of face geometry must be conducted in person rather than generated from a photograph," Chang wrote.

Chang left open the possibility of authorizing an appeal to the 7th Circuit in the future.

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