The face grouping feature on Google Photos is under scrutiny from the State of Illinois over the alleged violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act. Google has now launched a support page detailing its data retention policy for face grouping.
Face grouping has been a part of Google Photos for several years
Gizmodo reported last week that Google has already reached a settlement valued at $100 million over this legal dispute. It is strange, however, that the lawsuit has only come now, considering that face grouping on Google Photos has been around for a long time.
“If you delete an individual photo or video, you delete any face models derived specifically from that photo or video. If your Google Photos account is inactive for more than 2 years, all of your face grouping content will be deleted from Google Photos,” the company says on the support page (via 9to5Google)
Face grouping on the Google Photos app automatically scans a face within your existing photo collection. It also allows you to add names to each face. This makes it easier to look for photos of your friends and family by simply typing their names.
The plaintiffs claimed that Google violated Illinois law by not having a public policy on storing face-scanning data. Google didn’t notify users that it was collecting biometric data, thereby violating the law.
“Google is actively collecting, storing, and using—without providing notice, obtaining informed written consent or publishing data retention policies—the biometrics of millions of unwitting individuals whose faces appear in photographs uploaded to Google Photos in Illinois,” the plaintiffs alleged.
“Specifically, Google has created, collected and stored, in conjunction with its cloud-based ‘Google Photos’ service, millions of ‘face templates’ (or ‘face models’)—highly detailed geometric maps of the face—from millions of Google Photos users.”
Users can turn off face grouping on Google Photos via Settings
Users can opt to turn off face grouping by heading over to Google Photos settings. Turning it off also removes all face grouping data from your Google account, according to the company.
The $100 million settlement will be distributed among impacted users in Illinois. Any Illinois resident who uploaded their photos to Google Photos between May 1, 2015, and April 25, 2022, is eligible.
Residents can send in their claim form via mail before September 24, 2022. However, there’s no precise estimate of the amount each impacted user will get.