B.C. Court Allows Class Action Suit Against Google for Non-Consensual Collection of Face Biometrics

Vancouver, British Columbia – The British Columbia Court of Appeal has granted Yeremia Situmorang permission to proceed with his class action lawsuit against Google. Situmorang is alleging that pictures of his children, taken on his Android phone and automatically uploaded to Google Photos without his consent, resulted in the non-consensual collection of face biometrics. The court document states that Situmorang argues that facial biometric data is inherently sensitive personal information and collecting it without consent violates privacy.

Situmorang’s lawsuit represents both users and non-users of Google Photos who have had their facial biometric identifiers extracted and collected. Google has responded to the suit by focusing on the process it uses to organize collected photos. The company claims that it does not employ facial recognition and instead uses an algorithm to identify similar faces and create templates through its “face grouping” function, which can be opted out of at any time. This feature identifies biometric face data in images and organizes them into photo collections.

In November 2022, a chambers judge ruled in favor of Google, stating that Situmorang’s allegations did not prove unlawful conduct and that the “face grouping” of biometric data was not a significant offense. However, the B.C. Court of Appeal disagreed, stating that the fate of the biometric data after collection is irrelevant. The focus of Situmorang’s claim is on the act of collecting the data itself, not how it is used.

The court’s decision emphasized Situmorang’s argument that each class member has the right to control their own facial biometric identifiers. Uploading a photograph should not automatically cede control over this information.

It is worth noting that Google is facing a similar lawsuit in Texas. The issue of consent is expected to be a major biometrics concern in 2024, alongside the rise of deepfakes.

[TAGS: biometrics, Canada, data privacy, face biometrics, Google Photos, lawsuits]