Facebook fails to throw out photo-tagging privacy lawsuit

Citizens claim Facebook's facial-recognition software violates privacy

Facebook's bid to kill off a lawsuit claiming its facial-recognition software violates users' privacy has been rejected by a US judge.

The software was used to help 'tag' people in photos on the site, and three Illinois residents filed a lawsuit against Facebook for violating the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act.

The act was passed in 2008, requiring companies to get consent from users before collecting or storing biometric data including 'faceprints'.

The judge ruled that the act had initially been passed by legislators in order to combat privacy issues posed by emerging biometrics technology from companies such as Facebook and Google.

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"The court accepts as true plaintiffs' allegations that Facebook's face recognition technology involves a scan of face geometry that was done without plaintiffs' consent," US District Court Judge James Donato said, quoted by USA Today.

"The statute is an informed consent privacy law addressing the collection, retention and use of personal biometric identifiers and information at a time when biometric technology is just beginning to be broadly deployed.

"Trying to cabin this purpose within a specific in-person data collection technique has no support in the words and structure of the statute, and is antithetical to its broad purpose of protecting privacy in the face of emerging biometric technology."

However, Facebook hit back at the claims by arguing that 'faceprints' from photos uploaded to the site do not count as biometric data, and that photo-tagging is disclosed in its terms of service with an opt-out option.

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