Google Says Illinois Residents Aren't Injured By 'Faceprint' Collection

Google is asking a federal judge to throw out a privacy lawsuit over "faceprints" on the grounds that the people who are suing didn't suffer any injuries.

"There is no evidence of data breach; no evidence of disclosure to third parties; and no evidence of misuse of any data," Google argues in papers filed this week with U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang in Illinois. The company is asking Chang to dismiss the lawsuit before trial.

The legal dispute dates to 2016, when Illinois residents Lindabeth Rivera and Joseph Weiss alleged in a class-action complaint that Google violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act by deploying facial recognition technology on photos uploaded by users.

Rivera said in her complaint that she doesn't have a Google Photos account, but that photos of her were uploaded to the service after they were taken by someone else. Google then allegedly scanned the photos, extracted "geometric data relating to the contours of her face and the distances between her eyes, nose, and ears," and created a template of her face, her court documents allege.



Weiss alleged that he uploaded 21 photos of himself to his Google Photos account, and that Google used data from those photos to create a faceprint of him.

The Illinois Biometric Privacy Information Act, passed in 2008, requires companies to obtain written releases from people before collecting certain biometric data, including fingerprints, voiceprints and scans of face geometry. The law provides for damages of up to $5,000 per violation.

Google argues in its new papers that people can only proceed in federal court if they have suffered concrete injuries.

The company adds that Rivera and Weiss "speculate that their templates may someday be used to steal their identities or otherwise compromise their security," but says they don't have any evidence that has happened.

Facebook, which also faces suit for allegedly violating the Illinois privacy law, recently failed to convince a different judge to dismiss the case. Facebook, like Google, argued that the people who filed suit hadn't shown that they were injured by the company's alleged faceprint collection.

Facebook contended that none of the plaintiffs alleged that "they were identified in an embarrassing photo and therefore fired from their jobs," or that "they were victims of identity theft," or "caught in a compromising situation that adversely -- and concretely -- affected their relationships."

U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California said in his decision against Facebook that lawmakers in Illinois had decided that companies' collection of biometric information could cause harm.

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