Six Flags Biometrics Ruling Could Affect Facebook, Google

Six Flags Lawsuit Ruling

The Supreme Court in Illinois ruled on Friday (Jan. 25) that a teen can sue Six Flags amusement park over violation of an Illinois privacy law, in a case that could have repercussions for tech giants like Google and Facebook.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the youth bought a season pass to Six Flags Great America and had his fingerprint data collected in 2004. The lawsuit can proceed under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, the court said, which requires that companies collecting biometric information like iris and facial scans or fingerprint data get prior consent from individuals.

Companies also have to let people know how they’re going to use the data and the amount of time the records will stay in possession of the company.

The case, which is being closely watched by Facebook, overturns a previous ruling that found in favor of Six Flags. It could potentially set a precedent and affect biometrics cases across the nation.

Because the law is so strict, Illinois is rife with biometrics misuse lawsuits. Biometric data needs to be protected, critics say, because unlike other information collected by computers, such as phone numbers or addresses, it’s permanent.

Many companies that use biometrics across a broad swath of industries in Illinois have been affected, including Snapchat, Google, Facebook and Shutterfly.

Some companies have been altering their actions in Illinois, even before the Cambridge Analytica scandal was discovered.

For example, Google’s parent company Alphabet owns Nest, a camera doorbell that can recognize faces. However, Nest in Illinois does not have that feature because of the law.

The biometrics issue has garnered a lot of controversy in the tech industry, and recently, Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said he supports regulation of the technology.

Nadella told CNBC that as the use of facial recognition technology increases, self-regulation may not go far enough to contend with the impact it may have on society.

“One of the things that I feel today is, in the marketplace, there’s competition; there’s no discrimination between the right use and the wrong use of facial recognition,” Nadella said. He noted that self-regulation is still important but laws may be needed to prevent any harmful outcomes the technology could have. The Microsoft CEO cautioned that regulation must help, and not hinder, the marketplace.