SNAPCHAT

Snapchat Broke Illinois Law by Violating Biometric Privacy of Users, Suit Alleges

If a company is found to have broken Illinois law, citizens can collect civil penalties up to $5,000 per violation compounded by the number of people affected and days involved.

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

A class-action lawsuit has been brought against Snapchat's parent company, accusing the social network of violating Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act by illegally collecting users' biometric information without their consent, according to court documents.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by two Snapchat users, identified as Adrian Coss and Maribel Ocampo.

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The suit claims the social media platform, which allows users to communicate through short videos and images called “snaps,” collects, stores and shares users’ unique facial features and voices without first providing required disclosures about how the information will be used and for how long, according to Classaction.org

Specifically, at the center of the allegations is Snapchat's Lenses features, which allows users to take a "Snap," select a particular lense and modify their facial features with special effects, according to court documents. The lawsuit claims Lenses involves the use of technology to create a face scan and "creating, obtaining and storing" a user's unique biometric identifiers. The feature obtained the plaintiffs' biometric information without obtaining informed written consent each time it scanned their faces, the suit alleges.

Illinois’ Biometric Privacy Act prohibits private sector companies and institutions from collecting biometric data from unsuspecting citizens in the state or online, no matter where the business is based. Data cannot be sold, transferred or traded. Unlike any other state, citizens can sue for alleged violations, which has sparked hundreds of David-and-Goliath legal battles against some of the world’s most powerful companies.

If a company is found to have violated Illinois law, citizens can collect civil penalties up to $5,000 per violation compounded by the number of people affected and days involved. No state regulatory agency is involved in enforcement.

Most recently, more than one million Illinois Facebook users begin receiving checks following a $650 million settlement in a class-action suit alleging it violated residents' rights by collecting and storing digital scans of their faces without permission. Microsoft, Amazon and Google are among the companies that have also been accused of violations.

Since BIPA is an Illinois law, it only applies to state residents.

For those looking to join the Snapchat lawsuit or be considered a part of the class-action, no steps are needed yet. It could be months or years before the case moves forward and settles, if it even does so. At that point, members would be notified of the settlement and how to file a claim.

NBC 5 reached out to Snap Inc., Snapchat's parent company, for a statement regarding the lawsuit, but had yet to receive a response Monday night.

NBC News/NBC Chicago
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