In Which Illinois Got It Right

Back in 2008, Illinois passed a law barring companies from collecting customers’ personal biometric information without their prior permission. Companies in Illinois also were required to develop a policy, and make it readily available, that laid out how those biometric data would be stored and when they would be destroyed.

Facebook was accused of violating that law when it decided to use its facial recognition technology to analyze users’ photos in order to create and store “face templates.” Users’ faces are plainly biometric data in this context, the data were taken by Facebook without the owners’/users’ permission, and in 2015, folks sued Facebook over its misbehavior.

Now comes a reckoning of sorts.

Facebook has agreed to settle a $550 million lawsuit brought on behalf of millions of Illinois users who claim the social network’s automated tagging feature powered by facial recognition technology violates their biometric privacy rights.

Good law, and mostly good outcome.

But maybe the class action group shouldn’t have settled. Settlements only bind the parties to the suit and are only as good as the promises of those parties. Facebook has a long history of finding ways to weasel-word around the terms of its settlements, violating their spirit if not their letter.  Court judgments, though, are permanent, binding on all parties to the suit, and binding also on everyone else within the court’s jurisdiction.

We’ll see on this one, but Illinois got this one right with its law.

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