Facebook must face privacy claims over photo-tagging feature

May 6, 2016

Facebook Inc. users who say the social network’s photo-tagging feature flouts their privacy rights won the first round of a court fight.

A federal judge in San Francisco on Thursday rejected Facebook’s request to throw out a lawsuit alleging the company “secretly amassed the world’s largest privately held database of consumer biometric data.”

Facebook launched a feature in 2010 that allows users to identify people they recognize in photos using a tool that automatically matches names to faces on pictures uploaded to the social media site.

Citing an Illinois law, subscribers alleged they never gave Facebook permission to use their faces as biometric identifiers, while the company countered that all users could opt out at any time. Facebook also argued that information derived from photographs wasn’t covered by the law.

Facebook had no immediate comment on Thursday’s ruling. Jay Edelson, a lawyer for the users who sued, also had no immediate comment.

California is one of 47 states without laws regulating the use of biometrics and facial recognition technology. Only Illinois, Texas and Connecticut have passed such measures. The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008 is the only law that allows companies to be sued for failing to get consent from consumers.

Google has also been sued for allegedly violating the same law.

The case is In re Facebook Biometric Information Privacy Litigation, 3:15-cv-03747, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).


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