Facebook has lost an appeal to throw out a class action lawsuit alleging that it improperly used and stored biometric data on millions of users, according to a report by Reuters.
The ruling came from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco with a decision of 3-0. The court decision could have billions of dollars in consequences for the company, and it follows in the heels of a recent fine of $5 billion that Facebook agreed to pay to the Federal Trade Commission over privacy issues.
“This biometric data is so sensitive that if it is compromised, there is simply no recourse,” said Shawn Williams, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit. “It’s not like a Social Security card or credit card number where you can change the number. You can’t change your face.”
Facebook said it will continue to appeal.
“We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” a spokesman said.
Google dealt with a similar lawsuit in December and it was dismissed.
The issue began in 2015 when some Facebook users in Illinois said that Facebook was violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. The key issue is Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions,” which let users tag friends in previously uploaded photos.
Facebook argued that each person’s claims were unique and should stand on their own merit as cases, but Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta said that all the Illinois users could sue together as a group.
She also cited the Illinois law, which was put into effect in 2008, as a piece of legislation that was meant to protect people’s “concrete interests in privacy.” She said that the use of the face template technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”
Williams said the lawsuit could involve 7 million Facebook users.