A federal judge in San Francisco rejected Facebook’s request to toss a lawsuit alleging its photo-tagging feature that uses facial recognition technology invades user’s privacy.  Facebook’s face recognition technology involves a scan of face geometry called photo-tagging.  When you are identified in a picture on Facebook, facial recognition software remembers your face so friends can tag you in photographs.  This feature is called “Tag Suggestions” and it’s automatically switched on when someone signs up for Facebook.

The lawsuit alleges its photo-tagging system violates Illinois law that bans collecting and storing biometric data without explicit consent.

Facebook launched the photo-tagging tool in 2010 which automatically matches the names to faces in photos uploaded to the social network.  In 2008, Illinois passed a Biometric Information Privacy Act that requires companies to get consent from consumers before collecting or storing biometric data, including face prints, which is what companies such as Facebook and Google use to identify people in photos.  The statute is an informed consent privacy law addressing the collection, retention and use of personal biometric identifiers and information at a time when biometric technology is just beginning to be broadly deployed.  The judge in the case ruled that photo-tagging is antithetical to its broad purpose of protecting privacy in the face of emerging biometric technology.