Federal Appeals Court Says Consumers Can Sue Facebook for Facial Recognition

August 8, 2019

A federal appeals court has ruled that users can sue Facebook for collecting and using their facial images. In Patel v. Facebook, users contend that Facebook violated an Illinois biometric privacy law by creating biometric templates of their faces without their consent. The court found that the Illinois law "protects the plaintiffs' concrete privacy interests" and violations of the law "pose a material risk of harm to those privacy interests." The court cited the common law roots of the right to privacy and also noted that "the Supreme Court has recognized that advances in technology can increase the potential for unreasonable intrusions into personal privacy." EPIC filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the violation of the privacy law was sufficient for Facebook users to sue the company. EPIC wrote the "Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act imposes, by statute, legal obligations on companies that choose to collect and store individuals' biometric data." EPIC said that plaintiffs must only "demonstrate that a defendant has invaded a concrete interest protected by the law—nothing more." Last year, EPIC filed an amicus brief in Rosenbach v. Six Flags, where the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously decided that consumers can sue companies that violate the state's biometric privacy law. EPIC routinely submits briefs in support of consumers' right to sue in privacy case. EPIC has also long advocated for limits on the use of biometric data and has opposed Facebook's use of facial recognition software.

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