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Supreme Court declines Facebook's request to take up facial recognition case

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from Facebook Inc. on Jan. 21 to take up a case regarding a lawsuit against the company, which contends that Facebook's facial recognition practices violated Illinois' biometric privacy law.

In December 2019, Facebook petitioned the court to take up a federal appeals court decision that denied Facebook's motion to dismiss the class-action lawsuit, which is on behalf of millions of people. Plaintiffs argued that by violating the Illinois law, Facebook infringed their privacy rights, giving them standing to bring a suit.

Anyone aggrieved by a violation of the law has the ability to claim $1,000 for negligent violations and $5,000 for intentional or reckless violations, meaning Facebook could face billions in damages in Illinois. The law in Illinois is unique in that it gives private citizens the right to sue, rather than the government, in what is called a private right of action.

In its plea to the Supreme Court, Facebook argued that the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate injury.

"Although Plaintiffs claim that their privacy interests have been violated, they have never alleged — much less shown — that they would have done anything differently, or that their circumstances would have changed in any way, if they had received the kind of notice and consent they alleged that [the Illinois law] requires, rather than the disclosures that Facebook actually provided to them," the company wrote in its petition.

In July 2019, Facebook was also subjected to a $5 billion fine for privacy violations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.