On Monday, Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, initiated a lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. The lawsuit targets Facebook for collecting and storing biometric data without users’ consent.
Specifically, “Facebook unlawfully captured the biometric identifiers of Texans for a commercial purpose without their informed consent, disclosed those identifiers to others, and failed to destroy collected identifiers within a reasonable time.”
This statement refers to Facebook’s automatic tagging that uses stored biometric data to link individuals on posted photos. Facebook collects and stores this data from images posted on the website and later uses them to identify people in photos.
Paxton alleges that Facebook violated both Texas’ Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act (CUBI) and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). Per CUBI and DTPA, Texas can subject Facebook to a fine of up to $25,000 and $10,000 respectively for each violation.
Considering that there are tens of millions of Facebook users in Texas, Facebook could be looking at a multi-billion dollar fine once all the individual fines add up.
This is not the first time Facebook has seen a case of this nature. The state of Illinois sued Facebook in a $650 million case for violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. Similar to the Texas suit, Illinois alleged that Facebook violated the act by collecting and storing biometric data without consent from the users.
Paxton asserts that Facebook also uses the popular app Instagram to “train and improve its AI apparatus and to improve Facebook’s Tag Suggestions.”
Facebook maintains that facial recognition is not used for Instagram and released the statement “If we introduce face-recognition technology to your Instagram experience, we will let you know first, and you will have control over whether we use this technology for you.” The Attorney General believes this statement to be a lie.
Adding to the concern, individuals who have never used the platform can also be identified by Facebook’s facial-recognition software – again violating CUBI.
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Facebook’s facial-recognition software is run by DeepFace. DeepFace is the tool that Facebook developed in order to strengthen the platform’s tagging capabilities. DeepFace uses stored datasets in order to continue to train its facial-recognition ability. The accuracy of the software rivals that of human facial recognition capabilities.
Had Facebook obtained consent prior to implementing the automatic tagging feature and collecting people’s biometric data, they may not have been sued. However, it is unlikely that Texans would have agreed to have their data permanently stored.
It wasn’t until November 2021 that Facebook released information that details the scope of their data collection. Facebook is yet to obtain consent from those who had their data collected without even using the platform.
Facebook finds itself in hot water with the states again. This suit is just the most recent battle in the fight against big tech’s obsession with illegally collecting Americans’ data and it is unlikely that it will be the last. Hopefully, Paxton can score another victory for Americans affected by big tech’s predatory actions.