Billions on the line as Facebook loses appeal over violating Illinois facial recognition law

Facebook has lost a procedural appeal related to a 2015 Illinois class-action lawsuit over the company's use of facial recognition data, and now it could be on the hook for billions in damages.

Under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, companies planning to use biometric data applications must publish detailed data-handling policies prior to any collection or use. Facebook rolled out its "Tag Suggestions" facial recognition tool without taking this step. The law provides for $1k-$5k per violation in statutory damages, and there are millions of affected users.

Facebook had sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that the class was improperly certified and that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated any real harms from its misconduct. The appeals court ruled against Facebook in a 3-0 decision.

Facebook has hinted that it will take the case to the Supreme Court next.

The stakes are potentially high for Facebook. The Illinois law allows for payments of $1,000 or $5,000 per violation, depending on the severity of the violation. As Reuters reports, the class could potentially include millions of Facebook users, meaning the company could one day be forced to pay billions of dollars in damages, if it ultimately loses the case.

"We plan to seek further review of the decision," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time." The company will seek further review from the full court of appeals, according to the spokesperson, and could take the case to the Supreme Court.

Facebook could pay billions after losing facial recognition privacy appeal [Colin Lecher/The Verge]

(Image: Mike MacKenzie, CC BY, modified)