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Texas attorney general sues Meta for its use of biometric data

The AG seeks hundreds of billions in civil penalties from Meta, charging that the social media giant violated privacy and consumer protection laws in Texas.
stephanie-condon
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer on

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Meta (formerly Facebook), alleging the social media giant violated Texas privacy and consumer protection laws by using the biometric data of millions of Texans without their consent.

"Facebook has, for over a decade, built an Artificial Intelligence empire on the backs of Texans by deceiving them while capturing their most intimate data, thereby putting their well-being, safety, and security at risk," the suit reads. "The State brings this suit to hold Facebook accountable for covertly flouting Texas law for more than a decade, and to stop Facebook from ever again violating the rights of Texans for its commercial gain."

In response to the suit, a Meta spokesperson said in an emailed statement to ZDNet, "These claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."

Specifically, Paxton claims Meta violated the Texas Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act (CUBI), as well as the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices- Consumer Protection Act (DTPA) -- and that it did so billions of times. 

The attorney general wants Meta to pay $25,000 in civil penalties for each violation of CUBI, as well as $10,000 in civil penalties for each violation of the DTPA. 

The suit refers to the biometric identifiers Meta has gained access to via photos and videos uploaded by people using Meta's social media platforms. 

Facebook started using facial recognition on its platform about a decade ago, but attitudes towards the technology have evolved since then. About six years ago, Facebook users from Illinois filed a class-action lawsuit alleging its facial recognition system violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The law prevents companies from gathering or using biometric information from users without consent. The case was settled last year for $650 million.

Then this past November, Facebook announced it would shut down its facial recognition system and delete individual facial recognition templates for more than a billion people. The Texas lawsuit acknowledges this step the company took. "By that point, however, it had spent more than a decade secretly exploiting Texans and their personal information to perfect its AI apparatus," the suit says.

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