Facebook Legal Troubles
Facebook’s legal struggles continue. As we discussed yesterday, the company faces (and disputes) new allegations that it previously shared user data with smartphone device makers without consent. It was also sued today by Washington state for failing to comply with campaign finance laws. Google was also named in the complaint. Both companies are charged by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson with not maintaining proper records and information about buyers of political ads as required by state law. The alleged violations go back as far as 2013. Ferguson seeks penalties, legal fees and injunctions against both Google and Facebook. Both companies have pledged to capture and disclose more information in the future, where political ads are involved. Despite these actions they may face fines for historical behavior unless those are waived in a negotiated settlement. Separately Facebook faces a class action in Illinois for failing to comply with rules under the 2008 the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), which governs fingerprint identification, facial recognition technology and other biometric information and collection practices. The case was originally filed in 2015 by three plaintiffs who argue that photo tagging was powered by facial recognition technology and utilized without consent, as required under the Illinois statute. Damages claimed are up to $5,000 per violation. Facebook has an estimated 1.5 million users in Illinois — resulting in potential exposure of billions of dollars. Facebook moved to dismiss the suit and argued that the Illinois law violates the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. However U.S. District Court James Donato, based in San Francisco, denied the motion and asserted that a class action is actually the most efficient way to resolve the claims. Facebook may appeal the ruling, which was handed down in April, and certainly will fight the case if it proceeds as a class action.