Instagram illegally harvested biometric data of millions of users, lawsuit claims

Facebook faces fine of up to $500 billion if found guilty of breaking privacy law

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 13 August 2020 14:20 BST

Instagram has been accused of collecting the biometric data of up to 100 million users without their consent in a new lawsuit.

The Facebook-owned app could be fined up to $1,000 per violation if found guilty of breaking the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires user consent for collecting such data.

If it is ruled that Facebook collected the data illegally and acted recklessly or intentionally, the fine increases to $5,000 per violation.

This would amount to a fine of more than half a trillion dollars – five-times the net worth of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook is currently valued at around $740 billion.

Facebook offered to pay $650 million in a similar lawsuit last month that was taken against the company's main social media platform, according to Bloomberg, who first reported the case.

The lawsuit referred to a photo-tagging tool on Facebook that uses facial recognition software to suggest names of people within a user's social network.

Facebook described the lawsuit as "baseless", with a spokesperson adding: "Instagram doesn't use face recognition technology."

The Independent has reached out for further comment about whether a "face template" tool on Instagram automatically scans people's faces for use on Facebook's main platform, as claimed in the lawsuit.

The Whalen v. Facebook lawsuit was filed on Monday in state court in Redwood City, California, where the tech giant is headquartered.

"Once Facebook captures its Instagram users' protected biometrics, it uses them to bolster its facial recognition abilities across all of its products, including the Facebook application, and shares this information among various entities," the lawsuit alleges.

"Facebook does all of this without providing any of the required notices or disclosures required [by law]."

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