Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against Facebook over the tech giant’s facial recognition technology.
The lawsuit is reportedly seeking “hundreds of billions” in civil penalties for violating the state’s privacy protections of personal biometric data.
Filed in a state district court in Marshall on Monday, the lawsuit takes aim at the company, which is now known as Meta, for recording facial geometry in user-uploaded photos beginning in 2010. Facebook did not stop the practice until last year.
“For over a decade, while holding itself out as a trusted meeting place for Texans to connect and share special moments with family and friends, Facebook was secretly capturing, disclosing, unlawfully retaining — and profiting off of — Texans’ most personal and highly sensitive information: records of their facial geometries, which Texas law refers to as biometric identifiers,” the state argued in the legal complaint.
Paxton argued that the social media company “has been brazenly ignoring Texas law for the last decade.”
“Facebook has been secretly harvesting Texans’ most personal information — photos and videos — for its own corporate profit,” Paxton said in a statement. “Texas law has prohibited such harvesting without informed consent for over 20 years. While ordinary Texans have been using Facebook to innocently share photos of loved ones with friends and family, we now know that Facebook has been brazenly ignoring Texas law for the last decade.”
“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 added. “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.”
In 2015, Facebook settled a lawsuit brought on by the state of Illinois over the same issue for approximately $650 million, according to a report from the Washington Examiner.
“That lawsuit was brought under Illinois’s biometric privacy law, which requires people to consent before their biometric data can be recorded and is similar in some ways to the Texas law,” the report explained. “Texas says Facebook’s facial recognition system, which was discontinued last November, did not follow the state’s legal requirements for recording users’ facial features.”
A Meta spokesperson responded to the lawsuit in a statement to KVUE.
“These claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously,” the spokesperson said.
The report added that “Meta’s spokesperson also noted that the lawsuit was filed in in Marshall, Texas, which happens to be U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert’s district, an opponent to Paxton in the upcoming election. Meta’s spokesperson pointed out that the company shut down its face recognition system across its platforms in 2021 and said when the company did provide services powered by facial recognition, people were always provided with notice and controls.”