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Facebook loses facial recognition appeal, must face privacy class action

Published: August 8, 2019
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Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) effort to undo a class action lawsuit claiming that it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of users without their consent.

The 3-0 decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco over Facebook’s facial recognition technology exposes the company to billions of dollars in potential damages to the Illinois users who brought the case.

It came as the social media company faces broad criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices. Last month, Facebook agreed to pay a record $5 billion fine to settle a Federal Trade Commission data privacy probe.

“This biometric data is so sensitive that if it is compromised, there is simply no recourse,” Shawn Williams, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the class action, said in an interview. “It’s not like a Social Security card or credit card number where you can change the number. You can’t change your face.”

Facebook said it plans to appeal. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” a spokesman said in an email.

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National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden wants to fight back against corporate surveillance by Instagram and its parent company Facebook, as well as YouTube, which is owned by Google. In a tweet rant posted on Twitter, Snowden expressed that both social media giants owned by Mark Zuckerberg were involved in spying on their users, as well as YouTube. Snowden also announced that he has created new accounts on the platforms and that he will explain how the sites spy on users. He added, that he would “explain methods to limit how much they know about you,” if you choose to use them.

On June 14, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Facebook, holding that the company did not violate the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”).

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