Facebook is facing a class action in the US over its ‘Tag Suggestions’ feature, which uses facial recognition to suggest to US Facebook users which of their Facebook friends might be present in photos uploaded to the social network.
Yesterday, a judge in California ruled that in order for Tag Suggestions to work, Facebook has gathered biometric information without users' explicit consent. The class action says that this breaches Illinois state law. In ruling against Facebook, US District Judge James Donato certified a class of Facebook users "in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011". This is the date that Facebook launched the Tag Suggestions feature. The certification of a class of users is a key step in brining a class action.
Should Facebook lose the case, any member of the group could be entitled to compensation. In June 2011, Facebook had more than 6m users in Illinois. Given that, should it lose the case, Facebook could face a fine of between $1,000 (£700) and $5,000 each time a person’s image is used without their consent, under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008, it’s clear that this could be a very costly day in court for Facebook. It’s not alone – Google is facing a similar class action in Chicago centred on its Google Photos service.