CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Facebook is facing a possible class action lawsuit over its tag-suggestion feature.
Plaintiff Carlo Licata, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, filed a complaint against the popular social media website last week, arguing that the feature is a form of data mining that violates users’ privacy.
Licata, who has been a Facebook member since 2009, said he filed the lawsuit to put a stop to the website’s “surreptitious collection, use and storage” of his and the proposed class’ “sensitive biometric data.”
Basically, when a user uploads a photo to Facebook, the image is scanned using facial recognition technology developed by Face.com, a company acquired by Facebook. If Facebook recognizes and identifies a friend in the photo, the user is given the option of tagging him or her.
According to Licata’s complaint, filed in Cook County Circuit Court April 1, Facebook markets its tag-suggesting as a “convenience feature.” But Licata argues there’s more to it than that.
“Since tag suggestions debuted in 2010, Facebook has been calculatedly elusive in explaining how the technology works or how it would be used to collect millions of users’ biometric data (i.e. their faceprints),” he wrote.
“Worse still, Facebook doesn’t even require users to acknowledge its collection of their biometric data, let alone receive a written release from users before collecting their faceprints.”
“Even more problematic,” Licata notes, is that Facebook’s website doesn’t have a written, publicly-available policy identifying its retention schedule, nor guidelines for permanently destroying users’ biometric identifiers, as required by the Biometric Information Privacy Act.
BIPA, enacted by Illinois lawmakers in 2008, regulates the collection, use, safeguarding and storage of biometric identifiers or biometric information by private entities, regardless of the purpose or intended use.
Private entities under the act include individuals, partnerships, corporations, limited liability companies, associations or other group, however organized. A biometric identifier is defined as a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry.
“With millions of its users in the dark about the true nature of this technology, Facebook secretly amassed the world’s largest privately held database of consumer biometrics data,” Licata wrote in his 18-page complaint, calling it a “brazen disregard” for its users’ privacy rights.
Licata is seeking an order declaring that Facebook’s conduct violates BIPA; requiring Facebook to cease the “unlawful” activity; and awarding statutory damages to the plaintiff and the proposed class.
Chicago-based class action attorney Jay Edelson is representing the plaintiffs.
Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment on the filing.
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