Facebook Loses Bid For New Hearing Over Biometric Privacy

A federal appellate court has rejected Facebook's request for a new hearing over an Illinois biometric privacy law.

Unless the Supreme Court steps in, Illinois Facebook users can now proceed with a class-action alleging that Facebook violated Illinois residents' rights by compiling a database of their faceprints.

Facebook says it is reviewing its options and “will continue to defend ourselves vigorously.”

The legal battle, which dates to 2015, when several Illinois residents alleged that Facebook violated the Illinois Biometric Privacy Information Act, which requires companies to obtain written releases from people before collecting “face geometry” and other biometric data, including retinal scans and voiceprints.

Companies that violate the law can be sued for up to $5,000 per violation.

The fight centers on Facebook's photo-tagging function, which draws on a vast trove of photos to recognize users' faces and suggest their names when they appear in photos uploaded by their friends. To accomplish this, Facebook allegedly analyzes the photos and creates a database of facial templates, without first notifying people or obtaining their consent.

Facebook argued the complaint should be dismissed for several reasons, including that the Illinois residents weren't injured in ways that would justify a lawsuit.

A trial judge rejected Facebook's argument, as did a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Facebook recently asked the entire 9th Circuit to review the case.

The company's request was backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which argued that allowing the lawsuit to proceed would “make it easier for plaintiffs’ counsel to pursue even meritless class actions, with devastating harm for businesses generally and technology companies in particular.”

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