Facebook could face billions of dollars in fines after a federal judge ruled that the company must face a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook's facial recognition features violate Illinois law by storing biometric data without the user's consent.
The lawsuit includes the Facebook Tag Suggestions tool, which identifies users in the uploaded photos and suggests the automatic tagging of their friends. The function was launched on June 7, 2011. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that Facebook "collects and stores its biometric data without prior notice or consent in violation of their privacy rights." The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) requires explicit consent before companies can collect biometric data such as fingerprints or facial recognition profiles.
It should be noted that Facebook has also added a more direct notification to alert users about its facial recognition features, but this claim is based on the user's previous collection of data. With the request, millions of users of the social network could collectively sue the company, with violations of BIPA incurring a fine of between $ 1,000 to $ 5,000 each time the image of someone is used without permission.
In the court order, Judge James Donato wrote:
"A class action is clearly superior to the individual proceedings here." Although not trivial, BIPA statutory damages are not sufficient to incentivize individual claimants. Given the high costs of pursuing the discovery in the software and the Facebook code base and the willingness of Facebook to litigate the case … Facebook seems to believe that a class action lawsuit is not superior because the damages could amount to billions of dollars. Dollars ".
The Tag Suggestion feature works in four steps: the software tries to detect the faces in the uploaded photos. Once detected, Facebook calculates a "face signature" – a series of numbers that "represents a particular image of a face" based on your photo – and a "face template" database that the system uses to find matches . If the signature of the face matches, Facebook suggests the label. Facebook does not store facial signatures and only maintains facial templates.
Facebook says that its automatic tagging feature detects 90 percent of faces in photos. The lawsuit states that 76 percent of the faces in the photos have calculated faces. Tag suggestions are available in limited markets. It is offered primarily for users in the USA. UU With the option to deactivate it.
A lawyer for Facebook users, Shawn Williams, told him [a Bloomberg] :
"As more people realize the The scope of Facebook data collection and the consequences begin to join That data collection, whether economic or regulatory, Facebook will have to take a look at their privacy practices and make changes consistent with user expectations and regulatory requirements, "he said.  Facebook also launched a new feature in December that notifies users when someone uploads a picture of them, even if they are not tagged. In a statement to Reuters Facebook said: "We continue to believe that the case has no merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."
The Verge has contacted Facebook for more information. commentary.