Supreme Court shuns Facebook over facial recognition case

It means Facebook may soon be facing a multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit.

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The Supreme Court has rejected Facebook's request to review a multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against the company over its use of facial recognition technology, according to The Hill. This means the Supreme Court won't intervene and will allow the case to proceed. The lawsuit argues that Facebook allegedly violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act with a photo-tagging option.

The feature, which recognized users' faces and offered up suggested tags, revealed the possible identities of many private individuals and could pose serious risks for privacy, the case argues. But, in typical fashion, Facebook maintains that the feature does not create any "real-world harm."

Get consent or get wrecked — According to Illinois' rather detailed biometric privacy law, corporations are legally obligated to provide complete and transparent information about any sort of facial recognition technology they use. These companies must acquire documented consent from individuals if they plan to use such software.

If they fail to do so, the law gives individuals the power to sue these corporations and, if their lawsuit is successful, win as much as $5,000 for each violation. It's this law that's come to haunt Facebook and if the Supreme Court doesn't change its position, Mark Zuckerberg's social media empire could take a pretty big hit.

Facebook's petition — In its petition for the Supreme Court to intervene, Zuckerberg's company officially stated, "Although plaintiffs claim that their privacy interests have been violated, they have never alleged — much less shown — that they would have done anything differently, or that their circumstances would have changed in any way, if they had received the kind of notice and consent they alleged that [the Illinois law] requires, rather than the disclosures that Facebook actually provided to them."

So far, the Supreme Court has not explained why it rejected the petition. But its silence still manages to send a simple yet effective message to all companies eyeing such software: there is legal backlash — and potential financial ruin — in invading individual privacy.