Shutterfly faces a proposed class action in which two consumers allege the company has been illegally collecting face scans of Chicago-area residents without adhering to Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA) regulations and regardless of whether an individual holds a Shutterfly account.
“Unbeknownst to the average consumers, and in direct violation of [the BIPA], Shutterfly’s proprietary facial recognition technology locates each and every face appearing in each and every photo uploaded to its service from within the state of Illinois,” the suit reads, “and then, based on the unique points and contours of each face, extracts scans of face geometry (i.e., biometric identifiers) from each person appearing in each photo, including non-users—all without ever informing anyone of this practice."
Chicago has been cast as a guinea pig on which tech companies have been testing new applications for biometric-facilitated financial transactions, the lawsuit says. Shutterfly, according to the case, is one of those large corporations, and has allegedly taken to actively “collecting, storing, and using” biometric facial information “without providing notice, obtaining informed written consent or publishing data retention policies,” all things mandated by the BIPA. The company allegedly gathers this biometric information from “every individual who appears in a photograph uploaded” to the defendant’s website.
“Shutterfly collects these scans of face geometry using sophisticated facial recognition technology that extracts and analyzes data from the points and contours of faces appearing in photos uploaded by its users,” the suit claims. “Each scan of face geometry is unique to a particular individual, in the same way that a fingerprint or voiceprint uniquely identifies one and only one person.”
As the suit tells it, Shutterfly “made no effort to obtain consent from anyone when it introduced its facial recognition technology.” The lawsuit argues that Shutterfly's handling of biometric facial data not only violates the BIPA, but flies in the face of Federal Trade Commission guidelines that outline what the agency feels are best practices with regard to companies using facial recognition technology.