Google sets new precedents in landmark facial recognition lawsuit
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Google sets new precedents in landmark facial recognition lawsuit

In news that will undoubtedly have a major impact in the future of technology, Silicon Valley heavyweight Google has recently seen a case against it dismissed by an Illinois judge. The case focussed on Google’s breach of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by storing biometric data (in this case, detailed facial images) without user consent. The plaintiffs had requested a £5 million pay-out – that’s £5,000 for each of the people they allege Google has caused damages to. The only problem? There aren’t any ‘damages’ that have been suffered.

We’re just a few days into 2019, and Google is up by 1% so far!

Source: Yahoo Finance

The crux of this case – and others like it – is this: should a company be penalised for infringing BIPA even if there is no one who experiences damages as a result of that infringement? The judge’s decision to answer this statement with a ‘no’ has important ramifications for the tech sector, not least for an up-coming case against Facebook, which has been accused of the same ‘crime’.

In the original lawsuit’s text, plaintiffs complained that Google had “created, collected and stored” millions of “face templates” from Illinois residents that had not given consent. What makes this a concern is the way in which these templates can be used to identify people. As the lawsuit explains: “each face template that Google extracts is unique to a particular individual, in the same way that a fingerprint or voiceprint uniquely identifies one and only one person.”

The case (Rivera v. Google) was originally dismissed in Chicago, where district judge Edmond E. Chang cited a lack of concrete injuries to the plaintiffs, and ruled that this made Google ineligible for prosecution under BIPA. The latest ruling follows that logic, and may set a precedent for the future of what will soon become an ubiquitous technology.

Dominion holds Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.

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