August 8, 2023 – Investigation Closed, Lawsuit Filed
Thank you to everyone who reached out about their privacy concerns while using the BeReal app. At least one lawsuit has been filed at this time, so the investigation has been closed. You can read about the lawsuit on our newswire by clicking here.
Any relevant updates will be posted here as they become available. In the meantime, you can sign up for our free weekly newsletter here. Head over to this page to learn why you typically don’t need to do anything to join a case like this, and check out this page for a list of ongoing investigations.
At A Glance
This Alert Affects:
Anyone who used the BeReal app to take a photo of their face while living in Illinois.
What’s Going On?
It’s believed that the BeReal app may be using facial recognition software to secretly collect users’ biometric information – specifically, scans of their facial geometry – without permission. If so, it’s possible that a class action lawsuit could be filed on behalf of BeReal users over potential violations of an Illinois privacy law.
How Could a Lawsuit Help?
A class action lawsuit could help compensate BeReal users whose privacy may have been unlawfully violated.
Attorneys working with ClassAction.org want to hear from anyone who took a photo of their face using the BeReal app while living in Illinois.
Specifically, they’re looking into whether the social media app is using facial detection and facial expression recognition software to collect users’ biometric data – particularly, their facial geometry – without permission. The attorneys believe BeReal may have violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which prohibits companies from collecting and using consumers’ biometrics, such as fingerprints, iris and retina scans, and scans of hand and face geometry, without first making certain disclosures and obtaining consent.
The Illinois BIPA provides that consumers whose biometric data is illegally collected and used may be owed up to $5,000 per violation.
Is BeReal Collecting Users’ Face Scans?
The BeReal app is marketed as an “unfiltered” social media app that prompts users at a random time each day to take an unedited picture and share it with friends. The app is designed to use both the front and rear cameras on a person’s smartphone to take a selfie of the user and, at the same time, capture a snapshot of what they’re doing.
In some cases, if the user does not take a picture of their face, the app may respond with a message stating “Who goes there?” or “Umm, anybody here?” Similarly, if a user smiles, the app may respond with “Aye what a smile” or “Bonus points for the smile.”
It’s believed that these messages may indicate that the BeReal app is using facial detection and facial expression recognition software, both of which utilize facial geometry. A person’s facial geometry, i.e., a collection of data points measuring the distances between their facial features, can be obtained from a scan of their face and potentially used for identification purposes.
The state law was enacted in 2008, partially in response to the bankruptcy of a company called Pay By Touch that operated a fingerprint-scanning payment service in Chicago-area grocery stores. Illinois lawmakers were concerned that the fingerprint data collected by the company could potentially be sold in the bankruptcy, and they enacted the BIPA in order to better regulate companies’ use of consumers’ sensitive biometric data.
The BIPA prohibits private entities from collecting, capturing, purchasing or otherwise obtaining a person’s biometric information unless they first:
Inform the individual in writing that their biometric data is being collected or stored;
Inform the individual in writing of the purpose and length of time for which their information is being collected, stored or used; and
Receive a written release from the individual.
The BIPA also requires companies to develop and publicly post a retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying consumers’ biometric data.
A company that violates the privacy law could be responsible for paying a consumer damages of $1,000 for each negligent violation and $5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation.
How Could a Class Action Lawsuit Help?
A lawsuit, if filed and successful, could help BeReal users get back money for possible violations of their privacy. It could also potentially force BeReal to change its data privacy practices and implement greater protections for users.