Facebook has lost in the first round in a legal battle over privacy.
A San Francisco federal judge rebuffed the social network’s request to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses the firm of violating members’ privacy with its photo tagging tool.
The tool, which uses facial recognition, was the cause of the lawsuit filed by three Illinois residents, who argue that Facebook needs to obtain consent before its technology can create prints of users’ faces.
Nimesh Patel, Adam Pezen and Carlo Licata, in their complaint, accuse Facebook of “amassing users’ biometric data secretly and without consent.”
The lawsuit references Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits the collection of biometric identifiers, such as faceprints, if the person has not given his or her explicit consent.
Facebook, however, said its photo-tagging policy is explicitly described in its overall Data Policy and pointed out that users are able to opt out of being tagged.
U.S. District Judge James Donato, in his decision, said the complaint, thus far “passes review.”
“As the facts develop, it may be that ‘scan’ and ‘photograph” with respect to Facebook’s practices take on technological dimensions that might affect the BIPA claims. Other fact issues may also inform the application of BIPA,” he wrote in his decision. “But those are questions for another day. The Court accepts as true plaintiffs’ allegations that Facebook’s face recognition technology involves a scan of face geometry that was done without plaintiffs’ consent.”
So far, the social network has yet to comment on the judge’s decision but, in a statement when it was first slapped with the lawsuit, said: “This lawsuit is without merit and we will defend ourselves