Facebook sued in US over giant facial recognition biometric database

Facebook has been accussed of building a giant database of biometric information on people's faces, against their will, in court documents filed against the firm in the US.

A class action suit announced on Monday asks for redress after what is described in court documents as the largest "privately held stash" of biometric face recognition data in the world, according to the US Courthouse News Service.

The case will be heard in Illinois, where Facebook will answer questions about its database in respect of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy (BIP) Act of 2008.

Lead plaintiff Carlo Licata is concerned that his face forms part of the database, and that it was included without his prior knowledge or permission.

Facebook has a "brazen disregard for its users' privacy rights", according to Licata, and has "secretly amassed the world's largest privately held database of consumer biometrics data".

The ability to collect this sort of information came about when Facebook acquired a company called Face in 2012. The firm said at the time that the investment would make it easier for users to tag and share photos.

The BIP Act prohibits the collection of biometric information without consent. Licata is arguing that Facebook has hidden such practices from its userbase, explaining that it "actively conceals" the database and "doesn't disclose its wholesale biometrics data collection practices in its privacy policies".

V3 asked Facebook for its response to the suit. The company did not provide direct comment but pointed us towards a statement on another site which said that Facebook is ready to challenge Licata's claims. "This lawsuit is without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously," the firm said.

Licata is seeking an injunction against Facebook and its tagging and identification practices, and an end to the "surreptitious collection, use and storage" of personal details.

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  • Origin: GhAgent