Facebook's photo-tagging feature, which relies on facial recognition technology, has the social media giant facing a class-action lawsuit after a judge ruled users in Illinois could sue the company for gathering their biometric information.
Facebook's photo-tagging feature uses facial recognition technology to "extract biometric identifiers" from photographs that have been uploaded to the social media website. The program was launched in 2010 with the objective of encouraging tagging among friends on Facebook.
Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) seeks to regulate the use of biometrics because the information collected is unique to each individual and "once compromised, the individual has no recourse." The statute points out that even social security numbers can be changed, but biometric information is forever tied to an individual.
The three plaintiffs, Nimesh Patel, Adam Pezen and Carlo Licata, are arguing that this technology violates Illinois' BIPA law, which restricts how companies obtain biometric data.
Both parties agreed to transfer the lawsuit from an Illinois court to one in California where the three cases were consolidated into a single action. Facebook had argued that BIPA is not applicable under California law and that tag suggestions are not applicable.
The judge ruled that Illinois law applies because the state "will suffer a negation of its biometric privacy protections for its citizens if California law is applied."
In contrast, California will suffer minimally if BIPA is applied because the state lacks thorough biometric protections, the judge ruled.
Ars Technica first reported on the ruling.