The social media giant that has come under scrutiny for its Nazi-like censorship of conservative voices on its platform with its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, claiming he had no knowledge of it, is facing a class action lawsuit that alleges they stole biometric data without users’ consent, which a US judge just ruled can go forward.
The Daily Mail reports:
Allegations of privacy violations emerged when it was revealed the app used a photo-scanning tool on users’ images without their explicit consent.
The facial recognition tool, launched in 2010, suggests names for people it identifies in photos uploaded by users.
Under Illinois state law, the company could be fined $1,000 to $5,000 (£700 – £3,500) each time a person’s image was used without consent.
It is believed that the function runs afoul of Illinois state law on protecting biometric privacy.
Judge James Donato ruled the claims by Illinois residents Nimesh Patel, Adam Pezen, and Carlo Licata were ‘sufficiently cohesive to allow for a fair and efficient resolution on a class basis.
‘Consequently, the case will proceed with a class consisting of Facebook users located in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011,’ he said, according to the ruling.
June 2011 was the date on which Facebook rolled out its ‘tag suggestions’ feature.
Of course, Facebook believes the lawsuit is unwarranted and without merit.
“We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously,” said a Facebook representative who was reviewing the ruling.
Facebook also wants to save its money by demanding that a class action should not go forward, but that individuals should be pursuing their own lawsuits because Facebook claims it knows the individuals affected.
Funny, they also claim they will provide specific items to the government with a warrant, but you can see how that didn’t work out the way they told the public.
Of course! That’s because they know they can get away with what they are doing if people are singled out.
Facebook has said that they have been transparent about the app, and that it can be turned off by the user, but the issue should be that the user can turn it on if they want to be tagged in photos, not the other way around.
However, we are discovering that Facebook is gathering data on you when you are logged out and even if you are not a member of Facebook.
“When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account,” product management director David Baser said in a post on the social network’s blog.
The judge in the case believes Illinois law is clear and that Facebook has collected a “wealth of data on its users, including self-reported residency and IP addresses.”
So, how exactly is this date that is tied to the biometrics of tagged photos being used? That would require us to take a look at a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by a coalition of consumer privacy organizations led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Derrick Broze at Truth In Media reports:
The coalition also claims Facebook’s policy violates the 2011 Consent Order with the Commission, calling the scanning of faces without “unlawful”. The organizations are calling on the FTC to reopen a 2009 investigation of Facebook due to recent revelations regarding Cambridge Analytica accessing millions of Facebook users private data. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has called on the FTC to investigate Facebook’s facial recognition practices since 2011.
“Facebook should suspend further deployment of facial recognition pending the outcome of the FTC investigation,” EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said.Other organizations participating in the complaint against Facebook include The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, The Center for Digital Democracy, The Constitutional Alliance, Consumer Action, The Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, The Cyber Privacy Project, Defending Rights & Dissent, The Government Accountability Project, The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Patient Privacy Rights, The Southern Poverty Law Center, and The U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
This is not the first time Facebook has been under fire for their facial recognition technology. As far back as 2015, The Anti Media reported on a lawsuit involving a man who, despite not having a Facebook account, was fighting to get his “faceprint” from the company. The complaint was filed by Frederick William Gullen of Illinois. Gullen’s complaint stated:
Facebook is actively collecting, storing, and using — without providing notice, obtaining informed written consent or publishing data retention policies — the biometrics of its users and unwitting non-users … Specifically, Facebook has created, collected and stored over a billion ‘face templates’ (or ‘face prints’) — highly detailed geometric maps of the face — from over a billion individuals, millions of whom reside in the State of Illinois.
“This unwanted, unnecessary, and dangerous identification of individuals undermines user privacy, ignores the explicit preferences of Facebook users, and is contrary to law in several states and many parts of the world,” the complaint states.
Currently, only Texas and Illinois have written laws to protect the public from the commercial use of applications to gather biometric data on them without their express consent.
One has to wonder if Facebook’s agreement that you accept to use the service acknowledges the use of such applications and data collection.
According to journalist Pete Santilli it does, and furthermore, Facebook is turning lots of this data over to the US government without a warrant to do so. A class action lawsuit is coming in that debacle, as well.
After all, why would Facebook need facial recognition software? As the old saying goes, when you are provided something for free, that means YOU are the product.
I’ll tell you up front, I don’t believe Facebook will be held to account here, but if they were, it would be some sweet justice for sure.