Judge Sides With Google In Battle Over Faceprint Database

In a decision issued late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California ruled that the allegations against Google, even if proven true, wouldn't show that any violations of the Illinois privacy law occurred in that state.

The ruling comes in a 2020 lawsuit by Illinois residents Steven Vance and Tim Janecyk, who alleged that Google acquired the Diversity in Faces dataset (referred to in court papers as the DiF dataset) from IBM, which itself reportedly obtained 100 million pictures from the photo-sharing service Flickr. Google allegedly obtained the database in order to improve its own facial recognition service.

Vance and Janecyk claimed Google violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies to obtain consumers' written consent before collecting or storing scans of face geometry.



Google urged Freeman to throw out the case for several reasons, including that Illinois law shouldn't apply to activity that allegedly occurred in other states.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that Google -- which is headquartered in California -- engaged in any conduct in Illinois whatsoever,” the company wrote in its dismissal motion.

Freeman agreed with the company, writing that their complaint lacked “any indication that Google did anything in Illinois.”

“Plaintiffs do not allege that Google processes, stores, or otherwise makes use of the DiF dataset (or any biometric data for that matter) in Illinois,” she wrote.

“Nor do plaintiffs allege that Google ever interacted with them or any other person or entity in Illinois to obtain the DiF Dataset,” the judge added.

The dismissal was without prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs can attempt to reformulate their claims and bring them again.

Vance and Janecyk separately brought similar claims against Amazon and Microsoft. Those lawsuits were also dismissed on the grounds that the companies' alleged conduct didn't occur in Illinois.

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