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Court Rules Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Tech

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A lawsuit brought by three Illinois residents against Facebook will move forward after a ruling by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejecting the social media giant's motions for dismissal.

PC Mag reports

On Thursday, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Facebook's efforts to dismiss the ongoing class-action lawsuit, which could potentially require the company to pay billions in compensation.

The lawsuit dates back to 2015 when three Facebook users living in the state claimed the tech giant had violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies to obtain consent when collecting their biometric information.

Since 2010, Facebook has been using its own facial-recognition technology for photo-tagging purposes. It works by generating a digital template from your photos, so that the company can detect whenever your face appears in other images posted across the social network.

The plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit argue they never authorized the company to create a digital template of their face. According to privacy groups, most users were automatically enrolled in facial recognition. Facebook claims it inflicted no 'concrete injury' on the users by scanning their photos.

Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote in the court's ruling last week that, "We conclude that the development of a face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual's private affairs and concrete interests."

The court argued that Facebook's tag suggestions feature did sustain "concrete injury-in-fact [that is] sufficient." 

Facebook's appeal to have the case dismissed failed with this decision and can now continue on, opening the door to a possible class action lawsuit.

Facebook said it plans to appeal the decision and asserts that it had been transparent with users when it came to getting approval for its use of facial recognition.

“We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” a spokesman said in an email to Reuters.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg earlier this year said that Facebook would be focusing on improving privacy features and security measures in the coming years. He also said Facebook would work on being more transparent with its users.

This lawsuit isn’t the first time that Facebook has been accused of abusing user data. From the world-famous Cambridge Analytica scandal, reading users' private messages, the numerous abuses of user data by third parties, and one instance where passwords for millions of users were just put out in the open, Facebook has had a less than stellar record when it comes to handling user data. 

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