THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook must face a class action lawsuit alleging that it unlawfully used a facial recognition tech without users' explicit consent, a US judge ruled on Monday.
The lawsuit, filed by Illinois residents Nimesh Patel, Adam Pezen, and Carlo Licata, alleges that Facebook's face recognition tagging tool - a feature that suggests people to tag after a user uploads a photo - is in violation of Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act.
This law states that a private entity such as Facebook can't collect and store a person's biometric facial information without their written consent.
"Consequently, the case will proceed with a class consisting of Facebook users located in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011," Donato said.
In the unlikely case that the class action is successful, the suit seeks penalties of up to $5,000 for every time a user's facial image is used without his or her permission. The judge said the potential damages could amount to 'billions of dollars'.
Facebook, which had been pushing to have the case dismissed, told the AFP the company was reviewing the decision, adding: "We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously."
The firm has also long argued that it has been "transparent" about the face-tagging tool and allows users to turn it off and prevent themselves from being suggested in photo tags.
The controversial feature, launched in 2010, was suspended in Europe in 2012 after regulators ruled that the 'tag suggest' feature wasn't in line with European Union data privacy laws.
Despite this, Facebook earlier this year announced plans to re-introduce facial recognition functionality for European users on an opt-in basis. Those who choose to switch the feature on will be able to find photos they haven't been tagged in, Facebook said, and will receive alerts when a stranger uses their photo as their profile picture. µ
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