Social media platform Instagram is facing a $500B lawsuit after allegedly collecting biometric data from its users without their consent.
That is, according to court documents filed in the Superior Court of California, where the plaintiff Kelly Whalen says Instagram’s parent-company, Facebook was knowingly collecting their biometric data without the knowledge of its users.
While a spokesperson for Instagram’s parent-company Facebook has dismissed the claims of the case, according to court documents, “earlier this year Facebook agreed to pay $650 million to settle a class action that accuses the company of illegally harvesting the protected biometrics of users of its Facebook platform.”
The filing adds that “only at the beginning of this year did Facebook start informing Instagram users that it was collecting the biometric data, according to the suit.”
“As set forth, Facebook also illegally harvests the protected biometrics of users of its Instagram application,” the document reads. “Facebook is actively collecting, storing, disclosing, profiting from, and otherwise using the biometric information of its reportedly more than 100 million Instagram users without any written notice or informed written consent,” according to the filing.
The filing continues to claim that “Facebook surreptitiously captures its Instagram users’ protected biometrics without their informed consent and, worse yet, without actually informing them of its practices. Upon information and belief, once Facebook captures its Instagram users’ protected biometrics, it uses them to bolster its facial recognition abilities across all of its products, including the Facebook application.”
The complainant, Kelly Whalen says that she’s used Instagram since 2011, and alleges that Instagram has violated state privacy laws stating that the unauthorized collection of biometric data is forbidden.
Under those laws, any company found in breach can be fined $1,000 per violation, or $5,000 per violation if found to be intentionally acting maliciously in respect to user privacy.
According to Business Insider’s Aaron Holmes, “Whalen v. Facebook claims that Instagram has a face-tagging tool that uses facial recognition to identify people and create a ‘face template’ that is stored in its database. While instagram discloses this practice in its terms of service, the lawsuit alleges that the tool automatically scans the faces of people pictured in other users’ posts, even if they don’t use Instagram and didn’t agree to the terms of service.”
Bloomberg is reporting that “the social media company offered to pay $650 million to settle a lawsuit in which it was accused of illegally collecting biometric data through a photo-tagging tool provided to Facebook users.”
A spokesperson for Facebook, Stephanie Otway has said that “this suit is baseless,” adding that “Instagram doesn’t use Face Recognition technology.”
Instagram’s official data policy states in reference to facial recognition technology that “if we introduce face-recognition technology to your Instagram experience, we will let you know first, and you will have control over whether we use this technology for you.”