Facebook is no stranger to having some trouble with public relations from time to time. They have certainly stepped in it this time as they have been served with the first of what could be many lawsuits over Facebook’s facial recognition software.
Facebook’s Facial Recognition Software
The company initially wanted to do what it could to help its users “tag” their friends in photos more easily. In 2010 they realized that there had been millions upon millions of photos tagged on their site and that they could create computer programs to use this data to suggest tags on new photos as they were uploaded to Facebook.
This might save the user the trouble of having to try to remember everyone’s name in a large group photo. Obviously, Facebook would also benefit from the increase in data points.
The Lawsuits Arrive
Privacy advocates in the state of Illinois have launched the first lawsuit against Facebook because of the facial recognition software issue. They have pulled upon a little-known law that was enacted in the state in 2008 to protect biometric information. As of right now, only Illinois and Texas have such laws on the books.
These laws protect the way that information is stored and collected from things such as eye scans, fingerprints, and even facial recognition software programs. It puts those two states well ahead of the others in this particular area. It may also be giving Facebook and a lot of other technology companies a big headache in the near future.
The law stipulates that an individual must be informed of the fact that their information is going to be stored and/or used in a certain way before it is done. They have to be informed of this fact in writing. Clearly, this is too big of a burden for Facebook to undertake for every single individual in Illinois and Texas and perhaps other states in the future.
The lawsuit was originally filed in Illinois where the law exists, but it has been transferred to California courts since that is where Facebook is headquartered. It is still pending as of right now, and it could take a while before it winds its way through the court system. These huge class action lawsuits often have a way of moving through the system at a very slow pace.
The court will have the burden of determining how broadly the Illinois law should be applied. They will have to examine the particular issues involved in this case and decide if Facebook really is in violation of this law. If the court does decide this, it could spell big trouble for this particular feature on Facebook.
Similar issues have already faced another tech giant, Google. They were served a similar lawsuit back in May over many of the same issues, and regarding the same law. Other companies have quickly settled similar lawsuits that were launched against them with many of the same claims. It is not a stretch to say that tech companies are dreading this type of suit.
Privacy Advocates Rejoice
Privacy advocates have had some uphill battles when it comes to the social media websites. However, they are certainly happy with the way that things have been going with these types of cases. They see this as a way to help curb some of the breaches of privacy that the social media companies have instigated.
It really depends on what side of the issue you are on whether or not you agree with them. There are sure to be many twists and turns in this continuing saga. It is something worth keeping an eye on.
About the Author
Mark Sadaka is a leading Hazardous Chemical Attorney at Sadaka Associates, a national practice law firm. He keeps himself busy working with clients from New York to Alaska.
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