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Facebook Can’t Get Biometric Privacy Suit Tossed

A federal judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit against Facebook can move forward.

According to Bloomberg, U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco ruled on Monday that the suit alleging that the social network’s photo scanning technology ignores users’ privacy rights can proceed.

A unique Illinois law — the Biometric Information Privacy Act — could result in Facebook facing fines of $1,000 to $5,000 each time a person’s image is used without permission. It could also result in new restrictions on the site’s use of biometrics in the U.S.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is dealing with similar claims in federal court in Chicago.

“When an online service simply disregards the Illinois procedures, as Facebook is alleged to have done, the right of the individual to maintain her biometric privacy vanishes into thin air,” Donato wrote in the ruling. “The precise harm the Illinois legislature sought to prevent is then realized.”

The 2008 Illinois state law gives users a “property interest” in the algorithms that establish their digital identities, and is being used as the basis in the civil suit.

While Facebook successfully got the case moved to San Francisco, Donato already rejected the company’s argument that the case should be dismissed because disputes should be resolved under the laws of California, where Facebook is based.

In addition, Facebook argued the users did not suffer an actual  injury such as physical harm, loss of money or property, or a denial of their right to free speech or religion.

But Donato ruled that the alleged violation of the user-consent requirement in the Illinois law goes to “the very privacy rights the Illinois legislature sought to protect.”

“This injury is worlds away from the trivial harm of a mishandled zip code or credit card receipt,” he stated.

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