Giant Lawsuit Alleges Instagram Used Face Recognition Illegally

In a new lawsuit recently filed in state court in Redwood City, California, plaintiffs allege that Instagram collects biometric data from people illegally. The class-action lawsuit, which could result in $500 billion in fines, has been brought against Instagram’s parent company, Facebook. A Facebook spokesperson has said in response to the lawsuit that its claims are “baseless.”

Business Insider reported on the lawsuit, which was filed by Illinois resident Kelly Whalen. The lawsuit, Whalen v. Facebook, alleges Instagram collects and stores the biometric data of more than 100 million users without their knowledge or consent. The suit claims that Facebook then uses that data to bolster its facial recognition technology. The lawsuit says Facebook also shares this biometric data “among various entities” without the required notices.

More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Instagram has a facial recognition tool that creates “face templates” of people that are subsequently stored in the company’s database. The plaintiffs say that the tool scans the faces of people in pictures posted to Instagram—even if those people don’t use Instagram and therefore have not signed off on its terms of service. The suit also claims Facebook didn’t inform Instagram users it was collecting their biometric data until the beginning of 2020.

Stephanie Otway, a Facebook spokesperson, said in a statement to Business Insider that “this suit is baseless.” Otway added that “Instagram doesn’t use Face Recognition technology.”

$500 billion lawsuit alleges Instagram illegally collected people's biometric data.

Home Dust / Ryan Adams

According to Instagram’s online data policy, if the company introduces “face-recognition technology to your Instagram experience, [it] will let you know first…” The company adds that users have control over whether or not Instagram uses the tech on their behalf.

What do you think about this $500 billion Instagram lawsuit? Do you think these plaintiffs’ claims are valid in anyway? And how aware are you of what’s going on with state-of-the-art facial recognition tech these days? Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments!

Feature image: Home Dust / Ryan Adams

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