Facebook Sued for Creating Facial Recognition Database

A lawsuit filed in a Chicago-area court earlier this month alleges that Facebook is violating Illinois law by using facial recognition technology to make it easier for users to connect with each other online. Filed on April 1, the class action suit lodged by the Edelson law firm on behalf of plaintiff Carlo Licata says Facebook's actions violate the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

Facebook uses facial recognition technology developed by the company Face.com, which it acquired in 2008. It uses the technology to scan uploaded images and make friend "tag" suggestions to its users.

According to Licata's complaint, the BIPA makes it "unlawful for a company to, among other things, 'collect, capture, purchase, receive through trade, or otherwise obtain a person's or a customer's biometric identifiers or biometric information'" without informing that person or customer and receiving written consent. A Facebook user since 2009, Licata says he was never informed of the social networking giant's use of facial recognition technology, asked for consent or given the opportunity to opt out.

FTC: 'Consider Sensitivity'

Facebook has been using the facial recognition software since 2010 to notify users when they post pictures of friends and family who might also be Facebook users. Images that resemble other photos in Facebook's database prompt a suggestion that the user "tag" those people in their posts.

While Licata alleges that Facebook's use of facial recognition violates Illinois privacy laws, he also expresses concern that the photographic data could be accessed by hackers and create security risks.

A report published by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2012 acknowledged that facial recognition software has raised a variety of privacy concerns. The FTC released a guide of best practices that urged companies to "design their services with consumer privacy in mind," develop security and storage policies for data...

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