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Texas Sues Meta: Biometric Privacy Laws

Electronic privacy has become practically non-existent, especially with the frequent number of violations by tech giants. In more recent years, Texas has created new laws to protect its citizens from electronic and personal data abuse. It is difficult to hold onto privacy when it is easy to leave digital traces through online activity, electronic transactions, and the frequent use of computers in everyday life. The application of faceprints, fingerprints, iris scans, and vocal cadence is also increasing in popularity. This creates security issues for personal accounts because cyber attackers can steal this information in addition to passwords. Biometric privacy specifically refers to face prints, voiceprints, fingerprints, and other ways to recognize people individually through living data. For years, Facebook or Meta has used photos as a way to identify individuals in facial recognition systems. However, this has alarmed Texan authorities because it is all done without their permission or any privacy terms whatsoever. Last year, Facebook settled for $650 million, but they are being sued in the state district court for $5 billion this year. Here are some of the reasons this is occurring: 

Tag Suggestion Feature Uses Facial Recognition 

The tag suggestions feature allows a user to tag friends in photos with the help of facial recognition technology. The facial recognition data is being used without the consent of individuals because anyone can tag friends in videos and photos using these suggestions, which are typically very accurate. This created a lot of issues because there may be photos of individuals that they don’t want to be tagged in, or they may be accidentally tagged as the wrong person. This also gave unwanted people access to photos that some individuals didn’t want to be seen. 

Non-Consent Of Facial Recognition Data 

The use of facial recognition data was done without the permission of Texans because of the photo-tagging feature illegal collection of information about these individuals. This also applied to non-Facebook users who weren’t even using the Facebook platform. The data of these individuals were collected to help identify them in pictures, creating a way to facially recognize them without consent.

Violation of Texas’ Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act

The CUBI law regulates that biometric identifiers, which include fingerprints, voiceprints, face geometry, hand geometry, and retina scans, are a form of protected data. The law bans organizations and people from capturing biometric identifiers and using them for commercial purposes without the consent of the target individuals. Additionally, the people who own the biometric data should be given notice of these activities. Because Facebook broke this law, this put them in violation of the CUBI law. 

Violation Of Deceptive Trade Practices Act 

Facebook was considered to be in participation of deceptive trade practices because it collected biometric information from photos without the users’ consent. They also gathered personal information, which was then disclosed to others without the consent of the identified individuals. They didn’t inform those involved, which meant their information was misused without their knowledge. Additionally, Facebook failed to destroy all of the collected identifiers within a reasonable span of time. This is considered false and misleading practices that resulted in damages for the involved parties. The personal information was exploited by other entities who misused the biometric identifiers. 

Why Texas’ Biometric Privacy Laws Matter

According to the state laws, individuals who’ve had their biometric privacy violated can receive up to $25,000 per violation. The biometric information lapses at death, however, while living individuals have the privacy right to biometric identifiers. This is because biometrics can be used as passwords and may even retire the old-fashioned way of using pins to unlock private information. Because biometric technology is now being considered a way to identify individuals, similar to a social security number, it holds importance and value for Texan citizens. This prohibits anyone from commercially using and abusing biometric data to protect consumers better. 

What To Expect With The Texas Vs. Meta Lawsuit

If Texas wins the lawsuit, it can be expected that other states may start creating and imposing new bills to help protect residents from being taken advantage of. The commercial use of biometric data has gone unchecked for over 20 years and without any known repercussions. Additionally, there may be an increased tightening of restrictions on the use of biometric data. As biometric information begins to play a bigger role in security, financial transactions, and other crucial activities, the punishment for capturing this information and using it for profit without the person of origin will soon be considered criminal and not simply deceptive in nature.