US Judge Slaps Facebook with Class Action Suit over Facial Recognition Tool

US Judge Slaps Facebook with Class Action Suit over Facial Recognition Tool

Tuesday, 17 April, 2018 - 09:45
Facebook was hit with a class action suit over its facial recognition tool. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Facebook has been hit with a class action suit over claims it violated user privacy by using a facial recognition tool on their photos without their explicit consent.

The ruling on Monday by a US federal judge in California comes as the social network is snared in a scandal over the mishandling of 87 million users' data ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

The facial recognition tool, launched in 2010, suggests names for people it identifies in photos uploaded by users -- a function which the plaintiffs claim runs afoul of Illinois state law on protecting biometric privacy.

Judge James Donato ruled the claims by Illinois residents Nimesh Patel, Adam Pezen, and Carlo Licata were "sufficiently cohesive to allow for a fair and efficient resolution on a class basis.

A Facebook spokeswoman told AFP the company was reviewing the decision, adding: "We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously."

Facebook also contends it has been very open about the tool since its inception and allows users to turn it off and prevent themselves from being suggested in photo tags.

The technology was suspended for users in Europe in 2012 over privacy fears.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment.

The class will consist of Facebook users in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored facial recognition algorithms after June 7, 2011, Donato ruled. That is the date when Facebook launched “Tag Suggestions.”

In the US court system, certification of a class is typically a major hurdle that plaintiffs in proposed class actions need to overcome before reaching a possible settlement or trial.

Also on Monday, Facebook confirmed that it collected information from people beyond their social network use.

"When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you're logged out or don't have a Facebook account," product management director David Baser said in a post on the social network's blog.

Baser said "many" websites and apps use Facebook services to target content and ads, including via the social network's Like and Share buttons, when people use their Facebook account to log into another website or app and Facebook ads and measurement tools.

But he stressed the practice was widespread, with companies such as Google and Twitter also doing the same.

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