Facebook to face class action lawsuit over facial recognition

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Now, US District Judge James Donato has ruled that it can proceed with class-action status.

Federal judge James Donato, based in San Francisco, ruled Monday that a class action lawsuit would be the best way to deal with the issue, though participants are limited to those who lived in IL and were the subjects of a Facebook "face template".

Yesterday, a judge in California ruled that in order for Tag Suggestions to work, Facebook has gathered biometric information without users' explicit consent. In ruling against Facebook, US District Judge James Donato certified a class of Facebook users "in IL for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011".

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Facebook could have to pay billions of dollars in damages in a class action lawsuit over facial recognition, according to various reports.

The facial recognition tool, launched in 2010, suggests names for people it identifies in photos uploaded by users - a function which the plaintiffs claim runs afoul of IL state law on protecting biometric privacy.

That is the date when Facebook launched "Tag Suggestions", a feature that suggests people to tag after a Facebook user uploads a photo.

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Facebook, which got the case moved to San Francisco from IL, argues that the data it collects isn't covered by the IL law, which restricts collection of consumers' fingerprints, "voice prints" and scans of "hand or face geometry".

"Facebook should suspend further deployment of facial recognition pending the outcome of the FTC investigation", EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said.

A California judge on Monday gave the green light to a three-year-old case claiming the social network violated IL law.

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Cambridge University researcher Jennifer Cobbe pointed out Monday that Facebook users in Europe are confronted with a page asking for consent for facial recognition, but that the first page has no option for "no" and it is only possible to deny access by navigating through a series of settings menus. She adds that managing what information can and cannot be used by Facebook is quite complicated saying, "Even if you understand the Facebook business model, you would be hard pushed to know how far your data goes". The company says that its "face templates" are not related to the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act. However, for the moment, users should be aware that their words and face are owned by Facebook and whoever else they decide to share the data with.

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