back to article Facebook faces foe formation in facial fingering fight

A US federal judge on Monday ruled that a lawsuit filed over Facebook's use of facial recognition technology can proceed as a class action, raising the possibility the social network could face billions in damages. The sueball was filed in May 2015 under Illinois' 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by three …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    OH dear....

    "brushed aside Zuck & Co's concerns that allowing the case to proceed as a class action could expose the company to liabilities amounting to billions of dollars."

    Well, maybe you should of thought about that before you rolled it out.

    About time the fines were more than a operating expense.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: OH dear....

      About time the fines were more than a operating expense.

      I heard a story about a public body that signed a contract with a company for the supply of a system. The contract had numerous penalty clauses for delays and inability to meet performance requirements. After several delays and no real sign of the system being able to work, the public sector client looked to invoke the penalty clauses. The supplier said the client was free to invoke them, but if they did, the supplier would be filling for bankruptcy as it could't afford to pay any.

      The public body was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

      1. gerdesj Silver badge

        Re: OH dear....

        "The supplier said the client was free to invoke them, but if they did, the supplier would be filling for bankruptcy as it could't afford to pay any.

        The public body was stuck between a rock and a hard place."

        .. and hopefully now understands the concept of "due diligence" (including insurance)

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: OH dear....

          I would have gone for the penalty clauses, at least they would ensure that no other sap got stuck with such a lackadaisical supplier.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: OH dear....

        "The supplier said the client was free to invoke them, but if they did, the supplier would be filling for bankruptcy as it could't afford to pay any."

        I would think with the public involved, the government could then counter, "You're dealing with the government, buddy. Go bankrupt and it's open season on all your assets."

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: OH dear....

      "Well, maybe you should of thought about that before you rolled it out."

      It's what you get for using artificial intelligence instead of the real thing.

    3. earl grey Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: OH dear....

      But, but...then Zoiberg won't be worth billions of croutons!

  2. JDX Gold badge

    Seems like a direct correlation...

    ...between the potential usefulness of any feature and the potential for it to piss people off, where the internet is concerned.

    As a nerd, the idea that FB can automatically detect me when someone uploads a photo of me is bloody cool from a techy point of view and obviously very powerful. As a user the idea of not having to tag everyone in photos, and to be notified whenever someone uploads a photo of me, is straight out of sci-fi.

    The obvious flip side is that any clever tech to help FB identify me and track me for cool reasons allows them to identify and track me for nefarious reasons... or for others to do so if FB deliberately or accidentally exposes this data.

    1. Graham Cobb

      Re: Seems like a direct correlation...

      The obvious flip side is that any clever tech to help FB identify me and track me for cool reasons allows them to identify and track me for nefarious reasons... or for others to do so if FB deliberately or accidentally exposes this data.

      Neither of those are the reasons this law exists. The reason this law exists is that the obvious flip side is that other people may have different things going on in their lives and for them the capability is not "bloody cool" it is "bloody scary" or maybe even "life threatening".

      Bloody millennials ...I bet you think this song is about you...

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Seems like a direct correlation...

        Oh dear Graham, are you worried you might catch a computer virus from an email you receive in WhatsApp?

        I'm nowhere near being a millennial; I'm old enough to have children who are.

        People who are scared of FB can simply not use it.

        Cool and Scary and Life-threatening are NOT mutually exclusive, FWIW. Nuclear weapons are certainly the last two but the nobel-winning physicists who created them certainly thought they were cool applications of science. Bio-weapons and genetics are fascinating but terrifying. AI also.

        As someone interested in tech, all these things we can do are exciting and very cool - but that doesn't mean they're good ideas.

  3. LDS Silver badge

    There are news Facebook would like to activate face recognition in Europe...

    ... as an opt-in feature.

    Just to me is not clear how other people in the images could opt-in - and I don't think it could just put any blame on the image uploader and tagger.

    If the news are true, it looks to me the Zuck has to hire better GDPR consultants, or the US class action can be only the beginning...

    Update: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43797128

    1. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Re: There are news Facebook would like to activate face recognition in Europe...

      On flickr user A's ability to tag user B in a photo is controlled by user B. Been like that for years and years.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: There are news Facebook would like to activate face recognition in Europe...

        "On flickr user A's ability to tag user B in a photo is controlled by user B."

        What about the ability to tag non-user C?

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "user A's ability to tag user B in a photo is controlled by user B."

        On Facebook, it looks there's something alike - especially since it increases the reliability of identification, and minimize the effect of people loading and tagging fake images and people to deceive the system (I would suggest to tag everything, including cats, dogs, pigs, cows and crocodiles as "Mark Zuckerberg", altough I'm sure he's already have some built-in protection).

        But to let B know user A tagged him or her, the system still has to process every face it finds. Are the data that doesn't match a user discarded, or are still used to build shadow profiles, albeit with less reliability about who is who?

        This issue is a big one, because usually you don't go around with your face hidden - unless you're some Muslim women - it could become a new kind of unisex fashion, if Facebook & C. are not stopped in time...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Activate face recognition in Europe'

      If you travel overseas a lot for work, or log-in often on holiday etc... What happens then? (What ties a user to Europe etc)...

      What criteria is going to be used by Facebook to decide whether EU / non-EU data-rape rules apply: The location you set in your profile.. The Geo-IP location where the account was originally opened.. The location where the account was principally accessed in the past 12 months.. The location of the majority of your friends etc.. How will it work?

      Irish DPC (OPDC) is too busy being complicit to answer these questions. Jobs in Ireland mean Politicians look the other way...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: 'Activate face recognition in Europe'

        "What criteria is going to be used by Facebook to decide whether EU / non-EU data-rape rules apply:"

        Their problem. They want to use that business model? Right, they have to work out how to use it and stay within the law. If they can't figure that out they either don't do it or don't complain when they get whacked..

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hopelik kry julle wat julle verdien met hierdie hofsaak, julle bliksems!

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    "Faecebook", arsebook, faceboob, boobface....

    How many more names are there for it?

    1. el kabong

      Faecebook

      That's the one that fits best.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile...

    FB want to start doing the very same think in Europe and Canada.

    Zuck, please go to jail and stay there... for the rest of your life.

  7. User McUser
    Unhappy

    What I don't like is the fact that despite a complete lack of a Facebook profile, Facebook still has got my biometric data because I have several friends that use the service and I am often in photographs that get uploaded. Zuckerberg et al might not specifically know who I am beyond whatever primary key they assigned my facial data in their database, but they'll be able to identify me as such in any other photographs or videos and I have no idea if any of the existing privacy laws or regulations would even cover the use of such non-subscriber data.

    Maybe I'm paranoid but for some reason I just don't trust multi-billion dollar corporations to act in my best interests.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      While the service should be able to identify only service users, it would be interesting to know if it save also non-users data.

      Also, as many address books allow to associated an image to an entry, which is often a face, and their applications do harvest phone books, I'm not sure it can't match photos to non users as well...

      The worst thing is they could also sell a "people recognition service" to external entities - they send in the face data (which allows FB to track your habits beyond GPS data), and Facebook in return send targeting information...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    social ad network has also made campaign contributions

    Seems the system is working as intended.

    It sucks when you think corporations have the power to change legislation to protect their business. Why do we even bother with elections anymore?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Watch-out

    Watch-out if you're using Facebook's Download-Your-Data feature. Phone-home links back to FB servers are now embedded, despite including photos in the Download-zip anyway. The links work like 'Pixel Beacons' and take the following form below. Facebook were not doing this a year ago:

    https://scontent.fbog2-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-0/p600x600/[VERY-LONG-SERIAL-NUMBER].jpg?_nc_cat=0&_nc_ad=z-m&_nc_cid=0&oh=[LONG-SERIAL-NUMBER]

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Watch-out

      FarceBoob have been doing this, or something like it, for longer than you might think.

      The domain fbcdn.net in that URL belongs to them. Scanning URIs in my e-mail archive shows that it started to appear in 2009. Whois shows that the domain was registered to FB in 2007.

      The examples I've found in e-mails have all been part of a URL pointing to an image somewhere in the depths of the FB-plex and so, by implication, can be used to connect you to the FB user who sent the e-mail. This linkage presumably will be added to the data they sell whether you're a FB user or not and does not depend on you appearing in the image. Bastards.

  10. Chris G Silver badge

    Flakbook

    Between this and the other flack farcebook is receiving it could bring them down, the worry then would be who gets all the data when they are flogging off assets?

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Flakbook

      Putin puttin' in a bid?

  11. Astara

    So a photo of a face is considered "biometric data"....???

    I'm am not a fan of facebook, but if facebook is gonna get sued for something it should be something other than what one could see in a school year book. For that matter, it seems possession of multiple yearbooks or a "who's who" type book, with 1000's of photos, might be considered building a biometric database.

    Sounds like a bad law to use to bring facebook down.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      School yearbooks are a US obsession, and the origin of Facebook itself. They don.t exist here, and anyway, the images would become obsolete in a few years. Facebook aims at having the latest ones.

      Still, a simple photo may be not biometric data, its processing for matching is surely.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Now what if they start to match your face to products?

        I mean you may be "seen" at a shop selling off $stock, and FB then start to target you with adverts for $stock...

        Something like that.

  12. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
    Headmaster

    "They don.t exist here, and anyway, the images would become obsolete in a few years"

    Unless you have reconstructive surgery or are badly injured, the underlying structure of your face won't change much over the years - and you only need to look at the accuracy of "aged" photos in missing persons cases to know how accurate they can estimate what you will look like x years after the 'last known good' photo of you was taken.

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