Facebook May Have To Cough Up Billions Of Dollars For Face Recognition

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Amid the extant scandal, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) is continuously encountering serious impediments in its journey. The recent privacy debacle has provoked people to think that social media is not so much fun – after personal data of millions of users was compromised. While Facebook is still struggling with the debacle, the development in a major lawsuit filed against it in 2015 has only increased the problems for the Mark Zuckerberg.

A lawsuit filed against Facebook in 2015 has been given the critical go-ahead. It is all about Facebook’s facial recognition technology that has invited trouble for the company.

A U.S. Federal Judge James Donato has ruled Monday that Facebook must face a class-action lawsuit alleging that the social network has used facial recognition process to tag people in photos unlawfully. A class-action lawsuit means the Facebook could be sued by millions of US users and the damages would cost the company billions of dollars if the company loses the case.

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Facebook has used facial recognition technology on photos uploaded to the site since 2010 to detect and automatically put names to faces. The company rolled out its ‘tag suggestions’ feature in June 2011 which suggests who might be present in the photo, based on an existing database of faces. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook violated users privacy by gathering biometric information without users’ explicit consent.

The main allegations go back to 2015 when Facebook was sued for violation of an Illinois state law called the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which regulates information such as fingerprints, retina scans, and facial recognition data. The class of people includes Facebook users’ in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011, according to the court order.

In his order, Judge Donato wrote: “Facebook seems to believe … statutory damages could amount to billions of dollars.”

BIPA, the Illinois state law, has become a real thorn in Facebook’s attempt to bounce back from the ongoing data breach conspiracy. Though in response to court’s order, Facebook said that it was reviewing the ruling. The company believes that the case has no merit and they would defend themselves vigorously.

Facebook And Lawsuits: A Long History

This is not the first time when Facebook is caught in a situation. The company has a long history with lawsuits and paying billions of dollars in compensation. In 2015, Facebook faced a class-action lawsuit in Vienna over alleged breaches of EU privacy law. 25,000 users sued the social network for ‘illegal’ tracking of their data and its involvement in the NSA’s surveillance programme. Also in May 2012, Facebook was hit by a $15 billion class-action lawsuit by Stewarts Law US, a U.S based law firm, accusing Facebook for violating users’ privacy by allegedly tracking their web usage. Back in 2009, the company was hit by a civil lawsuit in California for violation of state’s consumer privacy laws.

The incumbent ruling adds up to the privacy woes that Facebook is having a hard time to deal with. The decision comes days after Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO, testified against the Congress regarding the company’s collection and use of user data.

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The latest lawsuit wants damages of up to $5,000 for everytime a person’s image was used without their consent. If it comes to be a successful class-action suit, every person in that class could receive a payout.

Importantly, facial recognition feature is not currently available in the UK. After an audit by Ireland’s data watchdog, Facebook switched off the feature. In December 2017, Facebook announced that users would be notified if someone else uploads their picture, even if they aren’t tagged in it. The firm said at the time, due to privacy regulations the feature won’t be available in UK or Canada.

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