Facebook could be in trouble as a class-action suit against Shutterfly, brought by a Chicago man, is now able to move forward. The claim relates to alleged misuse of biometric data by the company. Facebook uses similar technology to Shutterfly for face recognition, so if this case has a positive outcome for the plaintiff, it could mean difficult times ahead for Facebook, which currently has similar claims against it.
The collection of biometric data collected by Shutterfly is used to create databases of “faceprints,” allowing for quick and easy identification of people in photographs. The faceprint creates a unique ID for each person in a picture that is similar to a unique fingerprint. The Chicago man claims that while he’s never used Shutterfly before, the company has used group pictures uploaded by others to create a faceprint of him without his consent.
Illinois is one of three states in the United States to have laws restricting the use of biometrics. The claim brought by the Chicago man also includes an allegation that Shutterfly is violating Illinois’ law forbidding companies from collecting biometric data without permission of the individual. However, in Illinois there is an exception to this law, for biometrics collected from photographs, that Shutterfly feels they should fall under. However, the judge declined to apply this exception here.
There are some legal scholars who are skeptical of how far the case will go, believing that this is the direction technology is heading, and that it’s just reality. There is also a belief that the Illinois exception should have been applied here. However, this technology can likewise be viewed in the negative and as a violation of privacy. For large privacy advocates, such as governments in Europe and the Government of Canada, this is unacceptable. Canada and many European countries do not allow Facebook tagging in an attempt to protect the privacy of their citizens.
This case against Shutterfly is very similar to a suit brought directly against Facebook regarding a feature of Facebook that uses faceprint recognition technology, inviting people to “tag” their friends in pictures they have uploaded. Facebook is arguing that in this instance the law of California, where the case was transferred to, should apply. California does not have biometric limits as found in Illinois.
So far, it is unknown whether or not this class action suit against Shutterfly will in fact progress any further, or if Shutterfly will be able to find a way to settle before then. There are many on either side of the fence, who find the technology to be both incredibly beneficial and also a direct invasion of personal property.
For more information about biometric data on the Internet and the possible challenges to be faced in the near future contact Revision Legal’s Internet attorneys through the form on this page or by calling 855-473-8474.