judge scolded Facebook
Inc. for misconstruing his own
rulings as he ordered the company to face a high-stakes
trial accusing it of violating user privacy.
social media giant has misinterpreted prior court orders
by continuing to assert the “faulty proposition” that
users can’t win their lawsuit under an Illinois biometric
privacy law without proving an “actual injury,” U.S.
District Judge James Donato said in a ruling Monday.
Likewise, the company’s argument that it’s immune from
having to pay a minimum of $1,000, and as much as $5,000,
for each violation of the law is “not a sound
proposition,” he said.
the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, the
damages in play at a jury trial set for July 9 in San
Francisco could easily reach into the billions of dollars
for the millions of users whose photos were allegedly
scanned without consent.
from his concerns about the “troubling theme” in
Facebook’s legal arguments, Donato ruled a trial must go
forward because there are multiple factual issues in
dispute, including a sharp disagreement over how the
company’s photo-tagging software processes human faces.
users argue the technology necessarily collects scans of
face geometry because it uses “regions” of faces to
recognize them, according to the order. Facebook claims
its software “learns for itself” what distinguishes
different faces, he said.
is a quintessential dispute of fact for the jury to
decide,” Donato wrote.
judge said the users have “identified more than enough
evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude their
biometric data was harvested.”
cited a Facebook research paper on its DeepFace
program that he said the company
agrees is “descriptive of its technology.” The users have
also unearthed internal emails “indicating that Facebook
understood it was collecting what is ‘normally referred to
as biometric data,’” Donato wrote.
users last month won the right to sue
as a group. Donato referred to the ruling granting
class-action status to again reject Facebook’s arguments
that the case should be thrown out because it would
require the company to change its practices for users
outside of Illinois.
didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the
case is In re Facebook Biometric Information Privacy
Litigation, 15-cv-03747, U.S. District Court, Northern
District of California (San Francisco).