Google Faces New Privacy Battle In Illinois Over 'Faceprints'

Two Illinois residents have brought a new lawsuit against Google for allegedly violating a state privacy law by compiling and storing their faceprints.

“Google failed to obtain consent from anyone when it introduced its facial recognition technology,” Lindabeth Rivera and Joseph Weiss allege in a complaint filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois.

They contend that the company's use of facial recognition technology violates the 2008 Illinois Biometric Privacy Information Act, which requires companies to obtain written releases from people before collecting biometric data like fingerprints, voiceprints and scans of face geometry. The law provides for damages of up to $5,000 per violation.

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

Rivera and Weiss previously brought a similar complaint against Google in federal court in Illinois. U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang dismissed that case earlier this month, ruling that Rivera and Weiss didn't suffer any concrete injury from the company's alleged faceprint practices.

But Rivera and Weiss may have a stronger case in state court -- especially given a new ruling issued by the Illinois Supreme Court. The judges on that court ruled Friday in a closely watched case that people can proceed with lawsuits alleging violations of the biometrics privacy law, even without proof of concrete injuries.

“Our General Assembly has codified that individuals possess a right to privacy in and control over their biometric identifiers and biometric information,” the Illinois Supreme Court wrote in a 13-page opinion in a matter involving allegations that the amusement park Six Flags scanned visitors' fingerprints. “An individual need not allege some actual injury or adverse effect, beyond violation of his or her rights under the Act, in order to qualify as an 'aggrieved' person and be entitled to seek liquidated damages and injunctive relief.”

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