Texas sues Meta, saying it misused facial recognition data

FILE photo - Texas sued Meta on Monday over misuse of biometric data, the latest round of litigation between governments and the company over privacy.

Tony Gutierrez / Tony Gutierrez

Texas sued Facebook parent company Meta for exploiting the biometric data of millions of people in the state – including those who used the platform and those who did not. The company, according to a suit filed by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, violated state privacy laws and should be responsible for billions of dollars in damages.

The suit involves Facebook’s “tag suggestions” feature, which the company ended last year, that used facial recognition to encourage users to link the photo to a friend’s profile.

Paxton alleged the company collected facial recognition data without their consent, shared it with third parties, and did not destroy the information in a timely manner — all in violation of state law.

“The scope of Facebook’s misconduct is staggering,” the complaint reads. “Facebook repeatedly captured Texans’ biometric identifiers without their consent not hundreds, or thousands, or millions of times — but billions of times, all in violation of CUBI and the DTPA.”

Paxton said at a news conference outside of the Harrison County District Court on Monday that the fine for each violation of the Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act is $25,000.

A Meta spokesperson told NPR “these claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.” The company shut down its facial recognition feature in November after a decade in operation. In a blog post announcing the decision, Jerome Pesenti, vice president of Artificial Intelligence, wrote that Facebook needed “to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns, especially as regulators have yet to provide clear rules.”

The company also said then it would delete the data it held on more than one billion users.

Last year, Facebook settled a class action suit brought by users who said their data had been used without their consent for $650 million.

Texas filed suit on Monday in a state district court in the small city of Marshall. It’s unclear why the attorney general’s office selected that specific jurisdiction. The state hired two outside law firms to argue the case.

“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 said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “This is yet another example of Big Tech’s deceitful business practices and it must stop.”

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