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Digital Identity, Security & Online Fraud

Google sued over face recognition technology

Monday 7 March 2016 | 11:41 AM CET

Google has been hit with a lawsuit over its face-recognition technology.

Illinois and Texas are the only two states that regulate how private companies may use biometric data, and Illinois is the only state that authorizes statutory damages for violations. Facebook and Shutterfly are facing similar legal showdowns.

The latest lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Northern Illinois, revolves around Google’s cloud-based photo-sharing service, Google Photos, which analyzes the facial features of people who appear in pictures uploaded to it. The lawsuit claims that a Google Photos user took approximately 11 pictures of her with an Android-based smartphone that automatically captured the images and uploaded them to Google Photos. After the upload, Google software allegedly scanned the user’s unique face geometry and created a template of her face.

Privacy advocates say biometric data— poses specific privacy and security risks because it revolves around information that identifies people for life.

State legislators have passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, back in 2008, when social media and photo-sharing services were still in their relative infancy, and many people were not thinking about the potential of face-recognition technology as a way of tracking online photos.

BIPA prohibits private companies from collecting or storing biometric identifiers (including face geometry) without first obtaining expressed written consent.

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