Texas is suing Meta for trillions of dollars, arguing that automatic facial recognition violated multi-billion dollar Texas law. The claims are against Facebook and Instagram, both of which have biometrically screened photos posted for more than a decade.
On the one hand, the platform undertakes to warn against the use of facial recognition, but in reality, all images uploaded are subject to the group’s facial recognition.
Facebook developed automatic facial recognition in 2010; however, Meta only began removing facial recognition profiles from Facebook in the fall of 2021. A US$650 million settlement came before that: Meta will pay US$350 to each user in Illinois in because of facial recognition. Furthermore, Meta would exchange biometric data with third parties. The Texas attorney general’s lawsuit, which was announced on Valentine’s Day, does not specify what the accusation of secretly filtering all Instagram images is based on.
The company disputes the charges in the case, saying, “These allegations are unfounded and we will vigorously defend ourselves.” The case is titled âThe State of Texas vs. Metaplatformsâ and it is currently pending in Harris County District Court as Case 22-0121.
Biometric data collected legally cannot be disclosed and must be erased as soon as possible. However, civilians are not allowed to sue under the Biometrics Act; only the Attorney General is authorized to do so. And that’s exactly what Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, is currently doing.
For more than a decade, Facebook biometrically scanned all uploaded face photos without informing Texas users and obtaining their effective consent: “Facebook’s ubiquitous empire was built on deception, lies and mistreatment shameless Texans’ privacy rights – all for Facebook’s economic gain.” the lawsuit claims.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook not only failed to erase the biometric data it received, despite being required to do so by law, but also unlawfully passed it on to third parties without disclosing it. It also affects many people who do not use Facebook services on purpose. When a third party uploaded a photo from a non-Facebook user, it was pixelated.
Texas accuses Meta of secretly submitting all images uploaded to Instagram to its facial recognition system without Instagram users (or non-users) knowing about it, not to mention a defense against the collection of their facial geometry.
An injunction against Meta is sought, along with an order to remove all Texas biometric data and algorithms trained with it, seizure of all monetary benefits obtained, and civil penalties of US$25,000 per violation of law on biometrics and US$10,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act, plus interest and court costs.
According to Paxton, Facebook had 20.5 million users in Texas last year. If the charges are true and each Facebook member in Texas provided only one facial photo, the fines would far exceed Meta’s market value of around $600 billion. In addition to Meta, Clearview AI has built a library of billions of biometric profiles from facial photos sourced from the internet. Unlike Meta, Clearview has taken no action to stop selling this data.
Customers are expected to include thousands of US federal institutions. It’s unclear if Paxton also intends to sue Clearview AI.