A lawsuit filed in a Chicago-area court earlier this month alleges that Facebook is violating Illinois law by using facial recognition technology to make it easier for users to connect with each other online. Filed on April 1, the class action suit lodged by the Edelson law firm on behalf of plaintiff Carlo Licata says Facebook's actions violate the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
Facebook uses facial recognition technology developed by the company Face.com, which it acquired in 2008. It uses the technology to scan uploaded images and make friend "tag" suggestions to its users.
According to Licata's complaint, the BIPA makes it "unlawful for a company to, among other things, 'collect, capture, purchase, receive through trade, or otherwise obtain a person's or a customer's biometric identifiers or biometric information'" without informing that person or customer and receiving written consent. A Facebook user since 2009, Licata says he was never informed of the social networking giant's use of facial recognition technology, asked for consent or given the opportunity to opt out.
FTC: 'Consider Sensitivity'
Facebook has been using the facial recognition software since 2010 to notify users when they post pictures of friends and family who might also be Facebook users. Images that resemble other photos in Facebook's database prompt a suggestion that the user "tag" those people in their posts.
While Licata alleges that Facebook's use of facial recognition violates Illinois privacy laws, he also expresses concern that the photographic data could be accessed by hackers and create security risks.
A report published by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2012 acknowledged that facial recognition software has raised a variety of privacy concerns. The FTC released a guide of best practices that urged companies to "design their services with consumer privacy in mind," develop security and storage policies for data and "consider the sensitivity of information when developing their facial recognition products and services."
"(F)or example, digital signs using facial recognition technologies should not be set up in places where children congregate," the FTC noted.
EU also Cites Violations
Facebook's privacy policies allow users to specify that they want to manually approve posts they are tagged in before those posts appear in their timelines. The policies also enable users to turn off recognition so others won't see tag suggestions for their images. However, friends and family members can still manually tag them in their own photo posts.
The company most recently updated its privacy policies last year. However, those changes didn't affect the large quantities of data that Facebook gathers about users' online habits, including their uses of other Web sites and apps.
The current policies on tagging don't eliminate concerns over data that was gathered before those changes took place, according to Licata's attorney. Facebook's data practices have also raised questions in the European Union, where Belgian authorities recently released a report that determined the company is violating Europe's consumer protection laws.
Posted: 2015-04-08 @ 3:34pm PT
Facebook's use of face recognition to making it easier for users to connect online is a side show. The real problem is the use of face recognition to track people, connect them to marketing profiles, and "customizing" (read: price-gauging) what is displayed to people whose face is recognized by in-store cameras.
I wish Mr. Licata luck and hope he wins.
Posted: 2015-04-07 @ 3:38pm PT
So how much money is Carlo Licata asking for?