WATCH: TX Attorney General Ken Paxton announces lawsuit against Facebook

Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 11:01 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton held a news conference Monday to make an “important announcement.”

Paxton announced he is suing Facebook, now known as Meta, for the capture and usage of “unauthorized biometric data,” referring to Facebook’s use of facial recognition software.

Paxton alleged Facebook illegally captured biometric identifiers without users’ consent “billions of times” for its own commercial gain, which he said violates Texas’s Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“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,” Attorney General Paxton said. “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.”

An estimated 20.5 million Texans have a Facebook account, according to the lawsuit.

Under Texas’s Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act, biometric identifiers are defined as retina or iris scans, fingerprint, voiceprint, or record of hand or face geometry. Identifiers cannot be captured without a person’s informed consent prior to the capture. Captures of identifiers must also be destroyed within a year of capture unless required by another law to be maintained, such as for security purposes by an employer.

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act is used to protect consumers from false, misleading or deceptive business practices. Meta’s capture of biometric identifiers likely falls under the “unconscionable acts” provision, defined as “an act or practice which, to a consumer’s detriment, takes advantage of the lack of knowledge, ability, experience, or capacity of the consumer to a grossly unfair degree.”

The lawsuit states, “Facebook never required users to acknowledge its capture of their records of facial geometry, much less obtained their informed consent before capturing those records... Facebook’s deception was calculated and complete.”

The lawsuit alleges Facebook not only collected users’ biometric identifiers, it also captured identifiers of non-users whose identifiers appeared in pictures and videos uploaded by other users.

“Facebook has never to this day obtained informed consent from non-users to capture their biometric identifiers... Facebook has acknowledged as much, stating that it believes ‘it would be impossible to provide anyone (user or non-user) with prior notice, or obtain his consent,’ before subjecting the person to its facial-recognition process,” the lawsuit states.

In 2021, Facebook was forced to pay $650 million in a class action lawsuit in Illinois for the same biometric data concerns. After the settlement, Facebook said it would delete more than one billion users’ facial templates.

Paxton’s lawsuit, however, alleges Facebook has no intention of discontinuing the capture of users’ biometric identifiers.

The lawsuit seeks that Facebook be permanently prohibited from capturing biometric identifiers without informed consent and that Facebook be ordered to destroy unlawfully captured biometric data.

The full text of the lawsuit can be accessed here.

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