Facebook Loses Appeal–May Face Billions in Fines Over Privacy Lawsuit

A California court has rejected Facebook’s demand to end a lawsuit charging it with violating its user’s privacy with its facial recognition feature.
The social media giant lost an appeal to dismiss a lawsuit before the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, California, on Thursday, meaning that the suit demanding $35 billion may go ahead. The court rejected Facebook’s arguments that its users suffer no “concrete harm” by having their facial data mapped and stored by the social media company.
“Facebook sought to swat down the lawsuit last year after U.S. District Judge James Donato ordered it to alert users about an upcoming trial on claims that it harvested facial data in violation of an Illinois privacy law,” Courthouse news reported. “The Ninth Circuit granted Facebook’s eleventh-hour request for a stay pending appeal in May 2018.”
Fox News further explained:

The tech giant was sued in 2015 under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which mandates that companies make a public policy before collecting and storing biometric data — including face scans — and explain how such data will be stored. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s company has used that technology in its photo-tagging feature, which can tell whether an image includes a user’s friends.
The suit contended that Facebook did not meet the law’s requirements. Facebook, in turn, said that the plaintiffs failed to show injury and that the lower court overstepped its power by certifying the case.

The court ruled in a 3-0 decision that the suit could continue.
“We conclude that the development of a face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests,” the court wrote in its decision.
The Biometric Privacy Act allows for payments of $1,000 to $5,000 per violation so, that adds up to billions of dollars when measured against Facebook’s membership.
Facebook said it would take its case before the full court of appeals and even the Supreme Court if need be.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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