A U.S. federal judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit against Facebook focused on facial recognition can proceed.
The suit is based on a unique Illinois law — the Biometric Information Privacy Act — which gives users a “property interest” in the algorithms that establish their digital identities.
Facebook could potentially face fines of $1,000 to $5,000 each time a person’s image is used without permission. It could also lead to new restrictions on the site’s use of biometrics in the U.S.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco ruled that the suit could proceed.
“When an online service simply disregards the Illinois procedures, as Facebook is alleged to have done, the right of the individual to maintain her biometric privacy vanishes into thin air,” Donato wrote in the ruling. “The precise harm the Illinois legislature sought to prevent is then realized.”
According to Reuters, Donato ruled once again on Monday for the suit to proceed as a class action lawsuit, stating that it was the most efficient way to resolve the dispute.
The class will consist of Facebook users in Illinois for whom the social media site created and stored facial recognition algorithms after June 7, 2011, Donato ruled. That’s the date when Facebook launched “Tag Suggestions,” a feature that suggests people to tag after a user uploads a photo.
While Facebook successfully got the case moved to San Francisco, Donato rejected the company’s argument that the case should dismissed and resolved under the laws of California, where the company is based.
In addition, the social media company argued the users did not suffer an actual injury, such as physical harm, loss of money or property or a denial of their right to free speech or religion.
But Donato ruled the alleged violation of the user consent requirement goes to “the very privacy rights the Illinois legislature sought to protect.”
“We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously,” Facebook said in a statement.