Facebook Messed With Texas And Got a Lawsuit in Return

Don’t mess with Texas … or Texans biometric data, if you don’t want to get sued by the state.

The Texas attorney general filed a lawsuit against Facebook parent company Meta Platforms (FB) – Get Meta Platforms Inc. Class A Report over the company’s collection and storage of biometric data.

The Texas lawsuit claims that Facebook has been collecting and storing “millions of biometric identifiers” which can include iris scans, fingerprint, voiceprint, hand and face geometry data.

The lawsuit also notes that people not using Facebook were still caught up in the data collection, as photos and videos uploaded by their acquaintances were mined for biometric data.

The state alleges that Facebook’s facial recognition system ignored its requirements for capturing facial features.

Facebook’s privacy settings, or lack thereof, and data collection have been under increased scrutiny from both federal and local officials.

The company announced in November that it is shutting down its facial-recognition system due to ongoing backlash, and said that it would delete data related to the faces of more than one billion people.

The Texas lawsuit seeks civil penalties in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

“Facebook will no longer take advantage of people and their children with the intent to turn a profit at the expense of one’s safety and well-being,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.

Paxton alleges that Facebook has built an “artificial intelligence empire” through the data it collects from Texans while deceiving them by concealing the nature of its data collection.

Meta said in a statement that it will fight the lawsuit.

“These claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously,” a Meta spokesperson told TheStreet.

List of Charges Against Facebook

The state of Texas claims that Meta Platforms captured biometric information from photos and videos and disclosed that information to third parties without user knowledge.

The lawsuit also claims that the company failed to destroy the biometric identifiers “within a reasonable time,” further putting Texans at risk.

“There can be no free pass for Facebook unlawfully invading the privacy rights of tens of millions of Texas residents by misappropriating their data and putting one of their most personal and valuable possessions — records of their facial geometry — at risk from hackers and bad actors, all to build an AI-powered virtual reality empire,” the lawsuit says.

Facebook Settled Similar Charges in Illinois

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had to defend its collection of biometric data in court.

After attempts to dismiss the class action lawsuit failed, Facebook settled with the state of Illinois in 2020 over its facial recognition practices for about $650 million.

That lawsuit was first filed in 2015 under Illinois’ biometric privacy law, which, like Texas’ law, requires individuals’ consent before their biometric identifiers can be captured.

“These procedural protections are particularly crucial in our digital world because technology now permits the wholesale collection and storage of an individual’s unique biometric identifiers — identifiers that cannot be changed if compromised or misused,” US District Judge James Donato wrote in the Illinois case.

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