RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Texas is suing Meta for thousands of billions of dollars, alleging that Meta violated Texas law by billions of dollars with automatic facial recognition. The allegations are against Facebook, which has automatically biometrically screened uploaded photos for over a decade, and Instagram.
On the one hand, the photo platform promises to warn against introducing facial recognition, but in fact, secretly subjects all uploaded images to the group’s facial recognition.
Facebook introduced automatic facial recognition in 2010; it wasn’t until the fall of 2021 that Meta began deleting Facebook’s facial recognition profiles. A US$650 million settlement preceded this: Because of facial recognition, Meta will pay US$350 to each Illinois user. Not only that but Meta is also said to share biometric data with third parties.
META SAYS: ALL UNTRUE
What the accusation of secretly screening all Instagram images is based on is not clear from the Texas Attorney General’s lawsuit, which was published on Valentine’s Day.
Meta denies the allegations in the lawsuit: “These allegations are unfounded, and we will vigorously defend ourselves,” the company tells the press. The suit is called ‘The State of Texas v. Meta Platforms’ and is pending in Harris County District Court under Case No. 22-0121.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, is basing his lawsuit on two U.S. state laws: a consumer protection law that prohibits specific misleading claims and a law that prohibits the collection of biometric data without prior information and effective consent from affected individuals.
Legally collected biometric data may not be disclosed and must be deleted promptly. But citizens are not allowed to file lawsuits under the Biometrics Act; only the attorney general can do that. And that’s what Paxton is doing now.
SERIOUS ACCUSATIONS AGAINST INSTAGRAM
Facebook biometrically analyzed all uploaded face photos for over a decade without informing Texan users in advance and without having obtained effective consent: “Facebook’s omnipresent empire was built on deception, lies, and brazen mistreatment of Texans’ privacy rights – all for Facebook’s economic gain,” the lawsuit rages.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook not only did not delete the biometric data it obtained, even though it was required to do so by law but also illegally passed it on to third parties without disclosing it.
This also affects many people who deliberately do not use Facebook services. As soon as a third party uploaded a photo of a Facebook-free person, it was rasterized.
Unlike Facebook, corporate sister Instagram promises not to subject uploaded images to automatic facial recognition: “If we do introduce facial recognition technology (…) we will let you know in advance, and you will have control over whether we use that technology for you,” the lawsuit quotes Instagram as saying, adding, “None of this is true.”
Meta “secretly subjected all photos uploaded to Instagram to its facial recognition technology without Instagram users (or non-users) knowing about it, let alone a defense to the harvesting of their facial geometry,” Texas charges the data company.
THE REQUESTED PENALTY WOULD RUIN META
Requested is an injunction against Meta, an order to delete all Texas biometric data and algorithms trained with it, foreclosure of all monetary benefits obtained, and civil penalties of US$25,000 per violation of the Biometrics Act and US$10,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act, plus interest and costs of suit.
Paxton estimates that Facebook had 20.5 million users in Texas last year.
If the allegations are true and every Texas Facebook user uploaded just one facial image, the sum of the fines would significantly exceed Meta’s stock market value of nearly US$600 billion. Texas would be rehabilitated.
In addition to Meta, Clearview AI has also created a database of billions of biometric profiles from facial images taken from the Internet. Unlike Meta, Clearview is making no move to back away from selling this data.
Thousands of U.S. government agencies are said to be customers. It is not known that Paxton also wants to sue Clearview AI.
Download the statement ‘The State of Texas v. Meta Platforms’ here.