Federal Judge Drops Mother of All Bombs on Facebook

It’s been a really bad month for Facebook and yesterday it got much worse.

A federal judge ruled that users could put together a class action suit against Facebook for getting face recognition pictures from its users illegally. The damage would be in the billions of dollars, depending on how many sign up. The users in Illinois actually started the suit in 2015 over Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology, which violates Illinois law against collecting biometric information.

The lawsuit is over a popular Facebook activity called tagging. Google is being sued in Illinois for the same thing.

As Bloomberg reported:

“Facebook has for years encouraged users to tag people in photographs they upload in their personal posts and the social network stores the collected information. The company has used a program it calls DeepFace to match other photos of a person. Alphabet Inc.’s cloud-based Google Photos service uses similar technology and Google faces a lawsuit in Chicago like the one against Facebook in San Francisco federal court.”

According to Bloomberg, the suit was initially filed in Illinois, but the California-based Facebook successfully argued to have it moved to San Francisco. The home court advantage didn’t pay off, though.

In his ruling, Donato wrote that “Facebook seems to believe that a class action is not (warranted) because statutory damages could amount to billions of dollars.”

The maximum penalty is $5,000 per violation and there are 6 million users in Illinois. That means if all 6 million join the suit and they get the max, it will cost Facebook 30 billion dollars plus legal fees.

Facebook’s lawyers argued against allowing it to continue as a class action suit because of a large amount of money involved. The suit was supposed to be heard in Illinois.

Facebook successfully had it moved to the San Francisco area, hoping the home court advantage would help their case but they were disappointed as the judge did rule against them.