U.S. District Judge James Donato on Monday approved a class-action lawsuit targeting Facebook's practice of analyzing and storing data on user faces based on the images people upload to its social network and the tags they attach to them. Multiple plaintiffs claim their privacy has been violated as part of such activities, with Facebook previously arguing that harvesting data on how people look isn't illegal even without explicit consent. The competent judge still allowed the lawsuit to move forward some three years after being filed based on Facebook's possible violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008. According to the same piece of legislation, Facebook could be fined between $1,000 and $5,000 for every instance of using someone's image without their consent.
The Menlo Park, California-based firm said it's presently reviewing the ruling but remains adamant the litigation doesn't have the grounds for moving forward as a class-action lawsuit. The majority of privacy suits filed against the social media giant never gain such status even though most are seeking it, with that phenomenon not being unique to the U.S. judicial system as the top EU court most recently dismissed a comparable litigation request in January. Facebook is now once again arguing similar points, claiming the facial data stored by its system hasn't caused any actual damages such as loss of property, physical harm, or limited anyone's constitutional rights. The case was moved from Illinois to San Francisco and could potentially set a major precedent for all privacy lawsuits against digital companies, helping the legal system define what constitutes a concrete injury stemming from a violation of one's privacy.
The development dovetails into Facebook's recent controversies related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that already led to the company's co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg being grilled by U.S. lawmakers for nearly ten hours over the course of the last week. The ordeal may hence have wider implications for the Silicon Valley as a whole and result in new regulations targeting not just Facebook but other digital companies such as Google and Twitter, many industry watchers believe.