There is a case called Weiss v. Google Inc., and in it, plaintiff Joseph Weiss has filed what could be a potential class action against Google accusing Google of stealing “face templates” from Google Photos without permission. This case has been filed in Illinois Northern District Court, and is accusing Google of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
The job of BIPA is to regulate the collection, use and storage of “biometric information” or “biometric identifiers,” which has been defined as a personal feature that is unique to an individual, such as fingerprints ad DNA. One of the biometric identifiers, according to the complaint, also includes “face geometry.” Any private entity (such as Google), according to the law, must obtain consent from the affected individuals whose data are being collected or used.
No private entity may collect, capture, purchase, receive through trade, or otherwise obtain a person’s or a customer’s biometric identifier or biometric information, unless it first:
(1) informs the subject or the subject’s legally authorized representative in writing that a biometric identifier or biometric information is being collected or stored;
(2) informs the subject or the subject’s legally authorized representative in writing of the specific purpose and length of term for which a biometric identifier or biometric information is being collected, stored, and used; and
(3) receives a written release executed by the subject of the biometric identifier or biometric information or the subject’s legally authorized representative.
According to the complaint, Google captured these “face prints” without consent, and is in violation of BIPA:
Google has created, collected and stored, in conjunction with its cloud-based “Google Photos” service, millions of “face templates” (or “face prints”) – highly detailed geometric maps of the face – from millions of Illinois residents. Google creates these templates using sophisticated facial recognition technology that extracts and analyzes data from the points and contours of faces that appear in photos taken on Google “Droid” devices and uploaded to the cloud-based Google Photos service. Each face template that Google extracts is unique to a particular individual, in the same way that a fingerprint or voiceprint uniquely identifies one and only one person.
The case is seeking class action status on behalf of Illinois residents, as well as a minimum of $5,000,000 in damages plus attorneys fees.
SiliconBeat has pointed out that the related claims under BIPA against Shutterfly and Facebook were allowed to proceed. Those two defendants in those cases argued that, according to the law, applies to scans that were collected or conducted “in person.” In this case, it wouldn’t be surprising if Google uses the same argument.