Texas attorney general Ken Paxton on Monday (Feb. 14) filed a lawsuit against Facebook parent company Meta Platforms, saying the company’s now-discontinued use of facial recognition technology violated state privacy laws regarding personal biometric data, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Paxton filed the lawsuit in state district court in Marshall, Texas, seeking hundreds of billions of dollars in civil penalties, the report said. Meta’s capture of facial geometry in photographs uploaded by Facebook users from 2010 to late last year resulted in “tens of millions of violations” of Texas law, he said.
“Facebook has been secretly harvesting Texans’ most personal information — photos and videos — for its own corporate profit,” said Paxton in a statement. “Texas law has prohibited such harvesting without informed consent for over 20 years.
“While ordinary Texans have been using Facebook to innocently share photos of loved ones with friends and family, we now know that Facebook has been brazenly ignoring Texas law for the last decade,” he said.
Meta said in a statement Monday that the claims against Facebook “are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.” Facebook had settled a 2015 class action lawsuit in Illinois over its facial-recognition practices for about $650 million. Both states’ laws require individuals’ consent before their biometric identifiers can be captured, the WSJ report said.
Related: IRS Backs Down on Facial Recognition System
Last week, the Internal Revenue Service scrapped plans to use a private facial recognition system to authenticate taxpayers’ identities for online accounts, because of privacy concerns.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in a statement Feb. 7 that everyone “should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition” after the agency had announced the plan in late January.
The IRS’ planned use of facial recognition was slated for individuals looking to establish accounts on the IRS website, which can be used to check payment plans, look up records and access information about stimulus payments or child tax credits related to COVID-19, not anything related to tax filing or prep.
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