A lawsuit alleging that Facebook photo tagging violates user privacy has cleared a crucial early hurdle. A judge in Northern California District Court today ruled against a motion by Facebook to dismiss. That leaves the larger questions around biometric privacy unanswered, but clears the way for a major legal battle over one of Facebook's most popular products.
The lawsuit alleges that Facebook's photo-tagging system violated user privacy by creating faceprints — geometric representations of a person's face — without explicit consent. Those faceprints are typically used to identify users to suggest tags for uploaded photos. According to the complaint, that's a violation of Illinois's Biometric Information Privacy Act, which forbids the collection of biometric identifiers like fingerprints or faceprints without a person's explicit consent. As Alvaro Bedoya of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law described it, "If you run a bar, the law doesn’t prevent you from picking up my used pint glass, but it prevents you from pulling my DNA off it."