facial recognition camera

Non-consensual facial recognition lawsuit against Google dismissed

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A District Court in Chicago has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Google, alleging that the search giant performed facial recognition on a woman without her consent.

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, passed in 2008, was the first law in the US to regulate the collection of biometric information. It remains the only law allowing individuals to claim for damages for alleged violations. Under the act, companies are required to obtain consent before collection or disclosure of their biometric data, to destroy biometric identifiers in a timely manner and securely store biometric identifiers.

The act has resulted in a number of class-action lawsuits, with legal action notably having been taken against Facebook, Shutterfly, Snapchat and Google since the law was passed. In April 2018, a federal judge ruled that Facebook must face a class-action lawsuit brought by Illinois users alleging that it used facial recognition without explicit user consent to support its ‘Tag suggestions’ feature.

Google has been facing a lawsuit filed in March 2016 for allegedly collecting and saving the biometric data of a woman captured in 11 photos stored with Google Photos. According to the plaintiff, Google uploaded her data to Google Photos – the photo storage and sharing service provided to Android Users – and scanned her face to create a template for facial recognition, all without her consent.

The case, Rivera v Google, was brought to the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs sought more than $5m (£4m) for the “hundreds of thousands” of Illinois users affected, corresponding to the maximum compensation of $5,000 (£4,000) for each intentional violation of the act or $1,000 (£800) for each unintentional violation.

Google’s representatives argued that the plaintiffs were not entitled to financial compensation or injunctive relief due to their suffering no harm as a result of their biometric data being used.

District Judge Edmond Chang has now dismissed the lawsuit, stating that the plaintiff did not suffer “concrete injuries” as a result of her biometric data being handled in this way. It is the first lawsuit against a major company under the Biometric Information Privacy Act to be dismissed. The remaining lawsuits against major tech companies are still pending.

The ruling comes amid a public backlash against major technology companies concerning their handling of user data. Google in particular has been singled out for inappropriate search suggestions; its planning for a censored Chinese search engine; its handling of sexual misconduct allegations, and its role in disseminating disinformation during the 2016 US presidential election.

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