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Facebook Faces Lawsuit for Allegedly Harvesting Instagram Users’ Biometric Data

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Facebook, the owner of Instagram, has been accused of illegally collecting biometric data through the popular photo-sharing platform’s photo-tagging tool, according to a new lawsuit filed Monday in a state court in Redwood City, California.

In the lawsuit filed against Facebook, the company is accused of collecting and storing the biometric data of more than 100 million Instagram users without their consent using facial recognition technology. 

The lawsuit states that Instagram uses facial recognition technology to create and store a “face template” of users, and that Facebook then uses that data to enhance its facial recognition technology and shares the data with various entities without user knowledge.

The lawsuit also states that Instagram uses facial recognition technology to scan the faces of people in pictures posted to the platform, including the faces of people who don’t have Instagram accounts.

“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,” plaintiff Kelly Whalen wrote in the lawsuit. 

The case was filed by Whalen on behalf of Illinois residents who have allegedly had their biometric information illegally harvested by Instagram. 

Under Illinois law, Facebook could be forced to pay between $1,000 to $5,000 per violation for illegally collecting biometric data.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Facebook spokesperson Stephanie Otway called the suit “baseless.”

“Instagram doesn’t use face recognition technology,” she claimed, noting that Instagram doesn’t use the same facial recognition services that Facebook does.

However, Instagram’s data policy states: “If you have it turned on, we use face recognition technology to recognize you in photos, videos and camera experiences. The face-recognition templates we create may constitute data with special protections under the laws of your country.”

“Learn more about how we use face recognition technology, or control our use of this technology in Facebook Settings. If we introduce face-recognition technology to your Instagram experience, we will let you know first, and you will have control over whether we use this technology for you,” the policy continues.

The latest court filing comes after Facebook announced in July that it had offered to pay $650 million to settle a class-action lawsuit regarding its use of facial recognition technology, Reuters reported.

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