Facebook Blocked From Taking Biometric Data From Users

California court rules that social media giant should not have access to personal details garnered from photographs

Facebook has suffered a setback to its efforts to gather and utilise biometric data about its users after a US court ruled the practice unlawful.

The social media giant had been sued by some of its users who alleged that the site “unlawfully” collected and stored biometric data taken from their faces in photographs to suggest possible tags for friends in other images.

Facebook had petitioned for the case to be thrown out, but the court in California ruled against this.


biometric scanningThe case against Facebook was initially brought in Illinois, as part of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), but was moved to California, where Facebook is based.

The company had argued that this movement ruled the case invalid, as the users had agreed in their user agreement that California law would govern their disputes with the company, and that BIPA does not apply to “tag suggestions.”

Facebook used the data taken from previous photographs to suggest potential tags for images that a user has recently uploaded. Images have become one of the key use points for Facebook, and the company had been rumoured to be launching its own stand-alone camera app which would allow users to upload photos directly to the site, or to sister site Instagram.

A recent study conducted by Visa Europe found that three-quarters of 16-24 year olds in the UK would feel comfortable using information such as fingerprint scans, facial recognition or retina scanning in place of traditional passcodes.

Overall, three-quarters (76 percent) of this age group said that they would feel comfortable making a payment using biometric security, with over two thirds (69 percent) believe this will make their lives faster and easier.

Microsoft has been one of the biggest backers of facial-powered biometric technology in recent times, with its Hello service allowing Windows 10 users to unlock their devices with a scan of their features.

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