WeWork was hit with a lawsuit for allegedly violating an Illinois privacy law by compiling faceprint databases of workers who use the shared office space.
In a complaint filed this week in Cook County, Illinois, state resident Elliott Osborne alleges that WeWork required him to be photographed in order to be monitored within WeWork, and then placed his “facial geometry data” in its database.
Osborne, who says he worked for SpotHero in 2017 from a WeWork office in Chicago, alleges that WeWork violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. That law imposes requirements on companies that collect biometric data, including that they obtain written releases from people before collecting “face geometry.” Companies that violate the measure can be liable for up $5,000 per violation.
He alleges that WeWork ran afoul of the law in several ways, including by failing to obtain his written permission before storing his facial geometry.
“Unlike ID badges -- which can be changed or replaced if stolen or compromised -- facial geometry features are unique, permanent biometric identifiers associated with each individual,” Osborne writes in a class-action complaint.
“No amount of time or money can compensate plaintiff if his biometric data is compromised,” the complaint states. “Moreover, plaintiff would not have provided his biometric data to defendants if he had known that defendants would retain such information for an indefinite period of time without his consent.”
A WeWork spokesperson says the company does not use facial recognition technology to monitor people in its locations.
"We consider privacy to be a fundamental right and we are committed to protecting the privacy of our members. We intend to fight this lawsuit," a WeWork spokesperson stated.
Other companies, including Vimeo, Facebook and Google, have also been sued for allegedly violating the Illinois biometric privacy law.
In August, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California cleared the way for Illinois residents to proceed with a class-action accusing Facebook of creating a database of faceprints. The judges in that matter rejected Facebook's argument that people weren't injured by the alleged practices, and therefore shouldn't be allowed to move forward in court.
Facebook has said it will ask the Supreme Court to review that ruling.