The state of Texas has filed a lawsuit against Meta, alleging that Facebook’s face recognition techniques have resulted in “tens of millions” of privacy breaches in the state.
Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the case in a Texas district court on Monday, focusing on the company’s acquisition of biometric data in user-uploaded images. The practice was carried out by Facebook from 2010 to November 2021, when it was discontinued.
“For its corporate profit, Facebook has been covertly capturing Texans’ most sensitive information— pictures and videos,” Paxton stated in a statement. “For more than 20 years, Texas law has outlawed such harvesting without informed agreement.”
The charges are “without merit,” Meta said, adding that it would “vigorously” defend itself. Facebook’s approach at the time was to recognise users in images and instantly alert them if they appeared in photos or videos shared by someone else.
A source familiar with the situation told The Wall Street Journal that Texas is pursuing civil fines in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
In 2020, Facebook paid $650 million to resolve an earlier lawsuit in Illinois over its face recognition methods. Texas sent a legal subpoena to the social media behemoth asking about the face recognition technology after the settlement was made public.
In addition to turning off automatic face recognition, Facebook said it will restrict the technology’s usage and destroy all stored facial data. The collection of biometric identifiers without a person’s informed permission is illegal in Texas. It also prohibits businesses from exchanging biometric data.
The Texas statute, which may only be enforced by the state attorney general, has a maximum penalty of $25,000 per infringement. According to the lawsuit, there were an anticipated 20 million Texans using Facebook in 2021.