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Facebook could be on the hook for billions after Supreme Court refuses to hear facial recognition case

Illinois law allows users to sue tech companies for up to $5,000 per privacy violation. That means Facebook could be on the hook for billions in fines.

Facebook could be on the hook for billions after Supreme Court refuses to hear facial recognition case
[Photo: Warren Wong/Unsplash]
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The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought forward by Facebook that argues its users would have had to show they suffered “real-world harm” after Facebook identified them in photos using its facial recognition technology without getting their consent.

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Facebook hoped their argument would be heard by the Supreme Court after an Illinois Facebook user sued the company for breaking Illinois privacy laws related to facial recognition, reports the Hill. The plaintiffs in that lawsuit, Facebook vs. Patel, say Facebook violated Illinois law because it did not ask for user consent first. Per the Hill:

The case, Facebook vs. Patel, hinges on a question over whether Facebook violated Illinois law when it implemented a photo-tagging feature that recognized users’ faces and suggested their names without obtaining adequate consent. Facebook argued to the Supreme Court that the class-action case should not be allowed to proceed because the group of users have not proven that the alleged privacy violation resulted in “real-world harm.”

With the Supreme Court declining to hear Facebook’s argument, the class-action lawsuit in Illinois can now proceed. As the Hill points out, if Facebook loses the case, Illinois law allows users to sue tech companies for up to $5,000 per privacy violation. That means Facebook could be on the hook for billions in fines.

Before Facebook asked the Supreme Court to review the case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled the lawsuit could go forward, with Judge Sandra Ikuta saying, “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.”