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Facial recognition lawsuit: Underdog Illinois vs. heavyweight Facebook

(BUSINESS NEWS) Illinois sued Facebook over facial recognition. The battle has raged for years, but finally there is a victor, The Prairie State wins $550m!

Illinois facial recognition lawsuit

A few days ago, we discussed Google’s interest in artificial intelligence (AI) being regulated. The CEO’s comments on regulation came after a re-elected official of the EU, Margrethe Vestager, made it clear that one of her major initiatives would be to work on regulations in relation to the new, emerging tech.

In that article, we further discussed the EU crackdown and briefly covered how Vestager’s policy influence has affected US enforcement. Well, that’s exactly what’s happening with Facebook.

While regulations aren’t being addressed exactly, Facebook is being fined for what seems to be a lack of regulation, and perhaps even more important, privacy concerns.

Facial recognition software is on the rise, so it’s no wonder why Facebook wanted to include this tech in their platform, starting in 2010. The use case here was to aid in photo tagging. By using facial recognition software, Facebook users were being prompted to tag various people it thinks are your friends.

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Now, Facebook does give the ability to turn this feature off. However, it was never obvious where the setting would be (something that’s becoming increasingly more common as Facebook adds new and “improved” features), and since Facebook had the feature on by default, without asking for permission, the fear of privacy concerns have amassed… to the point where a class action lawsuit was actually suggested by a federal judge in 2018.

This came after years and years of Facebook refusing the complaint’s legitimacy, arguing they did nothing wrong.

The case has actually been ongoing since 2015, but after the judge suggested a class action suit, many have come forward. It’s important to mention that this class action suit only affects those living in Illinois. It was argued that facial recognition software violated the state’s privacy law from 2008, the Biometric Information Privacy Act.

But today, after years of litigation and much back and forth, Facebook has decided to settle, giving a total of $550 million to the plaintiffs. It seems like they decided to settle due to the risk of a full-on civil lawsuit being far more troublesome than simply settling. After all, this suit could have resulted in billions of dollars in payments by Facebook, and who wants to pay that? So, rather than perusing the suit any further, Facebook opted to settle. They’ve since discontinued their facial recognition tagging, starting in August 2019.

Of course, the elusive statement Facebook made regarding why they settled shows that Facebook definitely did not want to deal with this case anymore. Facebook told Recode “We decided to pursue a settlement as it was in the best interest of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter.”

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Of course, on the flip side, we live in a world of technology, and although this feature may have affected privacy, it also had its benefits. That said, As tech develops and evolves and, as larger companies like Facebook look to enhance their services and tools, and as users of various platforms increasingly become more and more nervous when such tech rolls out, we fully expect this to be just one of the many suits that will start to crop up in increasing numbers over the next few years.

Written By

Rachael Olan is a Texas-based Staff Writer at The American Genius and jack-of-many-trades. She's well known for her abilities in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, with a focus on SaaS and eCommerce businesses. Outside of writing, Rachael spends much of her time with her swarm of pets, including a 70 lb tortoise named Frankie.

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  1. Pingback: Macy's gets sued over illegal use of facial recognition in Illinois

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