What just happened? Like all tech giants, Facebook has to deal with lawsuits regularly. This latest one, however, could see the social network fined up to $500 billion. The class action claims that Instagram, which Facebook owns, illegally harvests the biometric data of users.
The Whalen vs. Facebook lawsuit was filed on Monday in state court in Redwood City, California. It alleges that Instagram collects and stores biometric data of more than 100 million users, without their knowledge or consent. Facebook then uses the data to “bolster its facial recognition abilities across all of its products, including the Facebook application, and shares this information among various entities. Facebook does all of this without providing any of the required notices or disclosures required by Illinois law,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint.
The suit comes just a month after Facebook raised its settlement offer to $650 million in a similar lawsuit that claims it illegally collected and stored biometric data of millions of users without their consent, thereby violating Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.
Illinois resident Kelly Whalen, who has been using the app regularly since 2011, claims that Instagram is also violating the state’s law. The suit seeks damages for as many as 100 million Instagram users, and with fines of between $1,000 and $5,000, Facebook could potential pay up to $500 billion if found guilty.
In an emailed statement, Facebook denied the claims. “This suit is baseless,” said Stephanie Otway, a company spokesperson. “Instagram doesn’t use face recognition technology.”
According to Instagram’s data policy: “If we introduce face-recognition technology to your Instagram experience, we will let you know first, and you will have control over whether we use this technology for you.”