Google Sued Over 'Voiceprint' Collection

Three Illinois residents are suing Google over allegations that its collection and retention of “voiceprints” violates a state biometric privacy law.

“Google is a company. Google is a verb. Google is a purveyor of a multitude of services available for the price of zero dollars and all of your privacy,” reads a class-action complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court by Nyltza Morales, Rita Kathpalia, and Kathpalia's 5-year-old daughter, identified only as “D.Z.K.”

They allege that Google violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which sets out restrictions on the collection of data such as fingerprints, retina scans and voiceprints.

That law requires companies to obtain people's written consent before collecting biometric data.

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The Illinois measure also mandates that companies destroy biometric data when it's no longer needed, or within three years of their last contact with the people whose data was collected.

“Unfortunately, Google disregards these statutorily imposed obligations and fails to inform persons that a biometric identifier or biometric information is being collected or stored and fails to secure written releases executed by the subject or the subject's legally authorized representative,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit was filed days after it emerged that Google Home smart speakers can transmit people's conversations to the company when they don't intend to interact with the devices, and that Google has sent portions of those conversations to outside contractors.

Google has been sued in the past for allegedly violating the Illinois law by using information in its Google Photos service to compile a database of “faceprints.”

Earlier this year, a federal judge in Illinois threw out the lawsuit, ruling that the Illinois residents who sued -- Lindabeth Rivera and Joseph Weiss -- didn't suffer any concrete injury from Google's alleged practices.

Rivera and Weiss are now appealing that ruling to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The pair also are pursuing the same allegations against Google in state court.

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