Facebook Collects Instagram Facial Geometry Scans BIPA Class Action

Facebook, Inc. owns the Instagram social media platform. The complaint for this class action alleges, “Earlier this year Facebook agreed to pay $650 million to settle a class action that accuses the company of illegally harvesting the protected biometrics of users of its Facebook platform. As set forth below, Facebook also illegally harvests the protected biometrics of users of its Instagram application.” The suit is brought under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

The class for this action is all Illinois residents who had their biometric identifiers, including facial geometry scans, collected, captured, received, or otherwise obtained by Facebook through photos uploaded on the Instagram app.

Instagram lets users share photos and videos, direct messages, and short-term photos and videos called “stories” which are removed after twenty-four hours.

According to the complaint, Facebook has “readily admitted” that it collects biometrics from Instagram photos and videos. “Its facial recognition software works by scanning faces of unnamed people in photos or videos to analyze details of individuals’ faces and creating a corresponding ‘face template’ for each face, and then storing that fact template for later use and/or matching it to those already in a database of identified people.”

While Facebook says that users have control of the process because they can turn the facial recognition function off, the complaint claims that this is misleading. Users can turn the function off for their own accounts, the complaint says, but their faces may still be scanned in photos posted by other users.

The law at issue in this class action is the Illinois Biometric Privacy Information Act (BIPA). It requires that private entities that wish to collect biometric information do a number of things:

  • They must inform the subject that the biometric identifier is being collected or stored.
  • They must inform the subject of the specific purpose and length of term for which the biometrics will be collected, stored, and used.
  • They must get a written release from the subject.

BIPA also requires that they must develop a written policy that they make available to the public with a retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying any biometrics collected once the initial purpose has been satisfied or within three years of the last interaction with the subject, whichever comes first.

The complaint alleges, “Facebook surreptitiously captures its Instagram users’ protected biometrics without their informed consent, and worse yet, without actually informing them of its practice. Upon information and belief, once Facebook captures its Instagram users’ protected biometrics, it uses them to bolster its facial recognition abilities across all of its products … and shares this information among various entities.”

The complaint alleges that some of Facebook’s patent filings show that Facebook has “commercial purposes in developing its facial recognition technologies.”

While Facebook posts a supplemental California Privacy Notice that informs users that it collects biometrics, the complaint alleges that it’s an after-the-fact notice that does not offer any opt-out provision up front and cannot meet the requirements of BIPA.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Privacy

Most Recent Case Event

Facebook Collects Instagram Facial Geometry Scans BIPA Complaint

September 9, 2020

Facebook, Inc. owns the Instagram social media platform. The complaint for this class action alleges, “Earlier this year Facebook agreed to pay $650 million to settle a class action that accuses the company of illegally harvesting the protected biometrics of users of its Facebook platform. As set forth below, Facebook also illegally harvests the protected biometrics of users of its Instagram application.” The suit is brought under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

Facebook Collects Instagram Facial Geometry Scans BIPA Complaint

Case Event History

Facebook Collects Instagram Facial Geometry Scans BIPA Complaint

September 9, 2020

Facebook, Inc. owns the Instagram social media platform. The complaint for this class action alleges, “Earlier this year Facebook agreed to pay $650 million to settle a class action that accuses the company of illegally harvesting the protected biometrics of users of its Facebook platform. As set forth below, Facebook also illegally harvests the protected biometrics of users of its Instagram application.” The suit is brought under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

Facebook Collects Instagram Facial Geometry Scans BIPA Complaint
Tags: BIPA, Biometric Data, Taking/Storing/Using Biometric Data, Your Privacy