Why it matters: A federal judge in Illinois has thrown out a class-action lawsuit against Google over its collection of biometric data without consent. Users of the company’s photo sharing and storage service filed suit in Illinois US District Court in 2016.

The plaintiffs were asking for a total of $5 million claiming that Google had violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIFA). The law provides that companies must get written consent before collecting any biometric data including fingerprints and facial scans on residents of the state. It sought $5,000 for every intentional breach of the law and $1,000 for unintentional violations caused by negligence.

Back in 2017, Google tried to have the case thrown out, noted Illinois Policy. It argued the suit was meritless because the company did not perform facial scans on residents, but rather on photos. The Court rejected the motion for summary judgment ruling that photos are covered under BIFA.

According to Reuters, this time, the search giant’s legal team argued that it was not liable for damages against the plaintiffs since they did not suffer any harm from the scans. US District Judge Edmond Chang agreed.

“[The Court lacked] subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiffs have not suffered concrete injuries,” he said in his ruling.

Even if the case had not been dismissed, it is not certain to have won anyway. Google uses its facial recognition to organize users’ photos by person so they can easily find pictures of their children for example. It even works for pets. Apple uses similar technology in its photos app for macOS.

Both technologies can only group similar pictures if the user has already created a tag linked with the biometric data. It is probable that the court may have considered this tagging a form of consent had the lawsuit gone to trial.

Neither Google nor the plaintiffs were available for comment.


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