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Google Photos allegedly violated Illinois’ facial recognition laws, according to suit filed after Facebook settles class-action over same law

A VeriScan facial recognition tablet takes a photo of a passenger boarding an international flight during a press event announcing ithe next phase of CBP's use of biometrics at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., Sept. 6, 2018. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection/ Flickr)
February 12, 2020

Google allegedly violated Illinois users’ privacy rights with its Google Photos service, according to a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in California.

The suit was filed about a week after Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to Illinois users to settle allegations that its facial tagging feature violated the same state law protecting biometric information, which can include data from facial, fingerprint and iris scans.

Illinois has one of the strictest biometric privacy laws in the nation. The 2008 law mandates that companies collecting such information obtain prior consent from consumers, detail how they’ll use it and specify how long the information will be kept. The law also allows private citizens, rather than just governmental entities, to file lawsuits over the issue.

Illinois resident Brandon Molander alleges in the suit that the Google Photos service scans photos that users have uploaded and creates maps of their faces, “all without ever informing anyone of this practice.”

The tech giant launched the photo uploading and sharing service in 2015, and it comes pre-installed on Google Android devices, according to the complaint. The app can also be downloaded on other devices.

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Molander is seeking class-action status on behalf of anyone whose biometric information Google pulled from photographs uploaded within the state of Illinois.

Representatives for Google and Molander did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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© 2020 the Chicago Tribune