US Judge Slaps Facebook with Class Action Suit over Facial Recognition Tool


Cambridge Analytica is accused of acquiring the data of 87 million Facebook users through an academic researcher at the University of Cambridge, Alexander Kogan. Forbes discovered that one such company is Terrogence, a surveillance company founded by former Israeli intelligence officer Shai Arbel, has been building a massive facial recognition database using photos and videos scraped from Facebook, YouTube and other social media networks. The law bans Facebook and other private entities from profiting in any way from a person's biometric info, which counts identifying info as the property of the subject, and prohibits the collection and storage of such info without prior written consent. It is now unavailable in the United Kingdom, but has been a feature in the USA since 2011.

"When I was asked earlier what should be done, well, the users of Facebook should make known their wishes to Facebook itself, that there should be a more partial arbiter of the truth", he said.

While younger generations are switching to Instagram and Snapchat as their primary social media platforms, 82 percent of 18-29-year-olds use Facebook, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Still, despite the breach of privacy, some students say giving up Facebook is easier said than done.

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.

It raises the stakes of face recognition - it intensifies the potential negative consequences.

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"One aspect of the data that was leaked from Facebook was personality profile data. It certainly is scary, but you should think that hacking is bad, not Facebook".

What does the facial recognition do?

The plaintiffs say Facebook's creation and storing of face templates for automatic photo-tagging purposes is prohibited under BIPA.

For many, this information was collected through a third-party quiz application connected to Facebook. The spokesperson noted that it hadn't found any Facebook apps operated by the company.

Cobbe said she believes Facebook's implementation will fall afoul of GDPR, because it will have to scan every face in photos just to see if the photo subjects have consented to use of the tech.