Texas Is Suing Meta Over Facebook’s Facial Recognition

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The Texas attorney is suing Facebook parent “Meta”, claiming that the United States has unlawfully gathered the biometric data of Texans for commercial purposes without their informed consent. In other words, a violation of the CUBI act has been observed.

The lawsuit, filed in state district court, claims Meta’s Facebook photo tagging feature has violated the Texas Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier (CUBI) Act. The CUBI restrictions require that the informed consent of the users should be taken before collecting biometric data like facial geometry. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook scanned photos of the users without asking for their permission and downplayed the fact that its automated tagging system amounted to mass biometric data collection.

It also reflects an earlier lawsuit’s claim that Instagram scans images of the users for facial recognition, contradicting statements in its user agreement. In a statement sent to The Verge by Dina El-Kassby, Meta mentioned that “these claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”

It is claimed by the attorney general’s office that Meta has “captured the biometric identifiers of millions of Texans without their informed consent, for a commercial purpose, and failed to destroy them in a reasonable time.” According to the filed suit, $25000 in civil penalties for each CUBI violation and an additional $10,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act are demanded.

Texas is one of a few states alongside Illinois and Washington, with biometric privacy laws. The well-known Illinois law has proved quite problematic for Meta in the past. In early 2021, a judge approved a $650 million class-action settlement in that state over the Facebook tagging system. The Texas law, unlike its Illinois counterpart, must be enforced by the attorney general’s office.

Meta discontinued the Facebook automated tagging system in November. This was done after the issuance of the Illinois statement. But it has not foreclosed the chance of using facial recognition techniques on other services, like the nascent virtual and augmented reality “metaverse” platforms where the company has focused much of its recent attention.

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