Texas Attorney General and Big Tech critic Ken Paxton has sued Google for allegedly capturing people's faceprints and voiceprints, in violation of the state's biometric privacy law.
“Google has, since at least 2015, collected biometric data from innumerable Texans and used their faces and their voices to serve Google’s commercial ends,” the attorney general's office alleges in a complaint brought in Midland County District Court. “Indeed, all across the state, everyday Texans have become unwitting cash cows being milked by Google for profits.”
Paxton alleges that Google is violating the state's Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act, which requires companies to obtain people's consent to the collection of faceprints, voiceprints and other biometrics. That law -- one of a handful of state measures regulating biometric privacy -- can only be hat law can only be enforced by the attorney general, and provides for penalties of up to $25,000 per violation.
The complaint focuses on Google Photos, the Nest smart-home hub, and the voice-activated Google Assistant.
Paxton alleges that Google Photos and Nest use facial-recognition software to garner faceprints of users as well as non-users who appear in images, while Nest and Assistant also allegedly capture voiceprints.
“Google has now spent years unlawfully capturing the faces and voices of both non-consenting users and nonusers throughout Texas -- including our children and grandparents, who simply have no idea that their biometric information is being mined for profit by a global corporation,” the complaint alleges.
Google spokesperson José Castañeda said Paxton mischaracterized the company's products.
“Google Photos helps you organize pictures of people, by grouping similar faces, so you can easily find old photos. Of course, this is only visible to you and you can easily turn off this feature if you choose and we do not use photos or videos in Google Photos for advertising purposes,” he said in a statement. “The same is true for Voice Match and Face Match on Nest Hub Max, which are off-by-default features that give users the option to let Google Assistant recognize their voice or face to show their information.”
Earlier this year, Paxton also sued Facebook-parent Meta, claiming that the company's prior use of facial recognition technology violated the law.
Paxton is also suing Google for allegedly arranging for radio personalities who hadn't themselves used the Pixel 4 phone to endorse the product, in violation of a state consumer-protection law.