As Zuckerberg prepares to testify before Congress, Facebook discreetly battles against a crucial privacy measure at Illinois Statehouse. Starting tomorrow, state lawmakers will consider a new amendment to the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) that could neutralize one of the strongest privacy laws in the United States, giving Facebook free rein to conduct facial recognition scans. without the consent of the users.
For years, Facebook has been battling a lawsuit based on BIPA, which required explicit consent before companies could collect biometric data such as fingerprints or facial recognition profiles. According to the plaintiffs, the Facebook photo tagging system violates that law, identifies faces in photos loaded without prior notice or clear consent. (Similar lawsuits have been filed against Google and Snapchat.) Facebook added a more explicit consent provision earlier this year, but the lawsuit has continued based on the previous collection.
The law requires explicit consent for companies to collect biometric data
This week's amendment would rule out significant new exceptions to the law, allowing companies to collect biometric data without prior notice or consent, provided they are handled with the same protections as other confidential data. Companies could also be exempt if they do not sell or benefit from the data, or if they are used only for work purposes.
It is not the first time lawmakers have tried to break the law, often with the direct encouragement of Facebook. In 2016, a proposed revision by Illinois State Senator Terry Link attempted to limit the law to scans taken in the physical world, a definition that would discard the faceprints collected from the uploaded photos. Facebook applauded the proposal at that time and said: "We appreciate the efforts of Sen. Link to clarify the scope of the law that he has created." Link finally withdrew the proposal.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on this week's proposal, but the company is a member of the Technology Council of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which has been actively supporting the amendment. Facebook has also made direct contributions to the campaign to many of the legislators who support the amendment, with records of public donations showing $ 5,500 donated to the four sponsors of the amendment in the last six months.