Ken Paxton, a Texas Attorney General has sued Meta (formerly Facebook) over its use of facial recognition. The lawsuit was filed in a state district court and claims that Meta’s Facebook photo tagging system violated the Texas Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier (CUBI) Act.
Meta is being charged for financial damages and an end to any further unauthorized use of the biometric data of Texans.
The CUBI Act was passed in 2009 and makes obtaining informed consent before collecting biometric data such as facial geometry. However, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook scanned user photos without requesting permission, de-emphasizing the fact that its automated tagging system resulted in mass biometric data collection.
The attorney general’s office alleges that Meta has “captured the biometric identifiers of millions of Texans without their informed consent, for a commercial purpose, and failed to destroy them in a reasonable time.” The lawsuit demands $25,000 in civil penalties for each CUBI violation along with an extra $10,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act – which according to The Wall Street Journal, would be hundreds of billions of dollars.
Texas, Illinois and Washington are among the states with biometric privacy laws. The popular Illinois lawsuit against Meta saw a judge approve a $650 million class-action settlement in that state over the Facebook tagging system in early 2021. And unlike Illinois law, the Texas law must be enforced by the office of the attorney general.
Meta went on to discontinue the Facebook automated tagging system month after the Illinois settlement in November 2021. However, this hasn’t foreclosed the possibility of users making use of facial recognition on other services.
The metaverse currently sits at the top of Meta’s list of priorities in the coming years, and as the metaverse continues to grow and expand, we are likely to see more alleged lawsuits on the virtual and augmented reality platform, but of course, Meta will always be ready to defend itself.