Court affirms decision on class action vs. Facebook’s Facial Recognition

Facebook can now get sued for using its facial recognition technology as the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed on Thursday, a class action suit – Patel vs. Facebook – that continually progressed since it was first filed in 2015.

Facebook was not given a chance to escape out of this lawsuit since the courts have always refused its excuse. Facial recognition has been deemed as “unique privacy harm” by the ACLU or the American Civil Liberties Union.

Since the Facebook facial recognition feature did not require the users for any permission to allow themselves to be recognized using this feature, it is considered to be privacy harm for the individual users.

“(BIPA) requires companies who take or use your biometric information to give you notice of what it is they’re taking, how they’re going to use it, how they’re going to store it, who will have access to it, and also to get your consent before they actually take and use it in that way,” said Rebecca Glenberg, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said.

A professor at Northwestern University, Kris Hammond, is more concerned about the facial recognition process, beyond other things. People are starting to be aware of this technological development, and it is highly alarming. According to his statement, this technology can either be useful for use, or they can do us harm. He says it’s important to “understand what these technologies can do, what they can do for us, and what they can do to us.”

Facial recognition is a way of recognizing a human face through technology. A facial recognition system uses biometrics to map facial features from a photograph or video. It compares the information with a database of known faces to find a match.

On a positive note, facial recognition can also be used when solving crimes, and it can easily identify people based on photo or video evidence that has their clear face seen. The facial recognition can also be used to locate individuals who are missing or being located by the authorities through a series of street-view cameras and even pictures taken by individuals posted on the internet.

There is also a downside for this tech; you can easily be located if you do not want to be seen, and it can be a burden to some individuals. Hammond also said, “do you really want it to be that if you go to a political rally, you are identified?”

There were a lot of grounds why the lawsuit was filed. Illinois processed the lawsuit because Facebook violated Illinois privacy laws by “secretly” using the people’s biometric without their consent. 

Specifically, the suit claims that Facebook failed to properly inform users that their biometric identifiers (face geometry) were being generated, collected, or stored as well as the tech giant also failed to properly inform them, in writing, what it planned to do with their biometrics and how long the company planned to collect, store, and use the data.

Furthermore, the suit alleges that the San Francisco-based company did not provide a publicly available retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying the biometric identifiers of users who don’t opt-out of “Tag Suggestions.” They also operated the feature without receiving a written release from users to collect, capture, or otherwise obtain their biometric identifiers.

The ability to instantaneously recognize and track people based on their faces would be already a possible ground for privacy violation at a very large scale. Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta was able to note in the court that the process of using facial recognition without any individual consent is already a form of personal privacy invasion. 

Either way, the facial recognition feature can either be good or bad depending on its use. The innovation of today’s technology is quite advanced that it can already detect and categorize each individual just by seeing its face. 

As Hammond was stating in his statements, he is quite impressed that the individuals are starting to notice and even take part of this new innovation, it’s just that the process of facial recognition tech could be neither good nor bad, it will always depend on the user of the said technology.

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