Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit on Monday against Facebook (now called Meta) for allegedly capturing and using the biometric data of millions of Texans without their proper informed consent.
Facebook has stored millions of biometric identifiers “contained in photos and videos uploaded by friends and family who used the social media app,” according to a press release by Paxton’s office.
Today, I filed a #BigTech lawsuit against Facebook ⬇️
Facebook cannot take advantage of people and their children with the intent to turn a profit at the expense of one’s safety and well-being.https://t.co/NW0yp4oBCP
— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) February 14, 2022
In doing so, Facebook exploited the personal information of users for profit, according to the lawsuit. The alleged actions are in violation of Texas’ Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
“Facebook will no longer take advantage of people and their children with the intent to turn a profit at the expense of one’s safety and well-being,” Paxton said. “This is yet another example of Big Tech’s deceitful business practices and it must stop. I will continue to fight for Texans’ privacy and security,” Paxton said in the statement.
The lawsuit was filed in the 71st Judicial District in Harrison County, Texas.
The suit also alleged Facebook captured biometric data from non-users, impacting many additional Texans.
“Facebook’s illegal and deceptive conduct did not end with its users. For Texans who did not use Facebook’s social-media services, Facebook was still capturing hundreds of millions of biometric identifiers from photos and videos innocently uploaded by friends and family who did use Facebook. There was no way for such non-users to know of or contest this exploitation,” the lawsuit noted.
The lawsuit also noted the “staggering” nature of Facebook’s violation due to the number of times the actions occurred.
“The scope of Facebook’s misconduct is staggering. Facebook repeatedly captured Texans’ biometric identifiers without consent not hundreds, or thousands, or millions of times — but billions of times,” the lawsuit added.
Facebook announced it was ending its facial recognition system in November following a class-action lawsuit from Illinois.
“Facebook previously settled another lawsuit over its facial-recognition practices for about $650 million. That class-action suit filed in 2015 was brought under Illinois’s biometric privacy law, which is similar in some respects to the Texas law,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Texas law can provide up to $25,000 per violation. The lawsuit estimates up to 20 million Texans had Facebook accounts in 2021.
The lawsuit is not Paxton’s first against Big Tech. In December 2020, Paxton led a 10-state legal challenge against Google over allegations of anti-competitive conduct in advertising.
“It isn’t fair that Google effectively eliminated its competition and crowned itself the head of online advertising,” Paxton said in a video posted to Twitter. “Let me put it this way: If the free market were a baseball game, Google positioned itself as the pitcher, the batter and the umpire.”
This internet Goliath used its power to manipulate the market, destroy competition, and harm YOU, the consumer. Stay tuned… pic.twitter.com/fdEVEWQb0e
— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) December 16, 2020
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has also been known for his strong support of Texans about fairness from social media platforms. In October, the state passed a law prohibiting Facebook, Twitter, and Google from censoring conservative viewpoints.
“They sued us,” Abbott wrote. “Now, a federal judge will let Texas seek internal documents about how they moderate content. It’s about to get interesting.”
Texas passed a law prohibiting Facebook, Twitter & Google from removing conservative viewpoints.
They sued us.
Now, a federal judge will let Texas seek internal documents about how they moderate content.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 23, 2021
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