$35B face data lawsuit against Facebook will proceed

Facebook just lost a battle in its war to stop a $35 billion class action lawsuit regarding alleged misuse of facial recognition data in Illinois. Today it was denied its request for an en banc hearing before the full slate of ninth circuit judges that could have halted the case. Now the case will go to trial unless the Supreme Court intercedes.

The suit alleges that Illinois citizens didn’t consent to having their uploaded photos scanned with facial recognition and weren’t informed of how long the data would be saved when the mapping started in 2011. Facebook could face $1,000 to $5,000 in penalties per user for 7 million people, which could sum to a maximum of $35 billion.

facebook facial recognition photo review

A three-judge panel of ninth circuit judges rejected Facebook’s motion to dismiss the case and its appeal of the class certification of the plaintiffs back in August. One of those judges said that it “seems likely” that the Facebook facial recognition data could be used to identify them in surveillance footage or even unlock a biometrically secured cell phone. Facebook had originally built the feature to power photo-tag suggestions, asking users if it’s them or a particular friend in an untagged photo.

Nicholas Iovino spotted the announcement today that we’ve obtained and embedded below. When asked for comment, a Facebook spokesperson responded, “Facebook has always told people about its use of face recognition technology and given them control over whether it’s used for them. We are reviewing our options and will continue to defend ourselves vigorously.”

Filed in 2015, Facebook has done everything to try to block the class action case, from objecting to definitions of tons of words in the suit to lobbying against the underlying Biometric Information Privacy Act.

The class action poses an even greater penalty than the record-breaking $5 billion settlement Facebook agreed to over violations of its FTC consent decree. Though that payment amounts to a fraction of the $55 billion in revenue Facebook earned last year, it’s also been saddled with tons of new data privacy and transparency requirements. The $35 billion threat coming into focus contributed to a 2.25% share price drop for Facebook today.

[Image Credit: Mike MacKenzie]

Additional reporting by Zack Whittaker

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