A proposed class action alleges Walmart has collected Illinois employees’ fingerprints for timekeeping purposes despite failing to satisfy the disclosure requirements of a state biometric information privacy law.
The plaintiff, a former fitting room attendant at Walmart’s Waukegan, Illinois facility, alleges in the 21-page suit that the mega-retailer has run afoul of the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which regulates the use of data such as fingerprints, voiceprints and facial and iris scans by private entities.
According to the case, Walmart has violated the Illinois BIPA by failing to and continuing to fail to:
Properly inform workers in writing of the specific purpose and length of time for which their fingerprints will be collected, obtained, stored and used;
Provide workers with a publicly available retention schedule and guidelines for the permanent destruction of their fingerprints;
Obtain a written release to collect, obtain, store, disseminate or otherwise use workers’ fingerprints; and
Obtain consent to disclose, redisclose or otherwise share fingerprints with a third party.
Walmart’s non-disclosures include failing to inform employees that their fingerprints are shared with at least one third-party vendor and the retailer’s payroll vendor, in addition to the parties who host the information in their data centers, the suit says. Moreover, the filing stresses that Walmart employees “have no idea whether Defendant sells, discloses, rediscloses, or otherwise disseminates their biometric data” given the company is mum on its collection of fingerprints.
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court on October 21, stresses that the use of fingerprints, as opposed to replaceable badges, for timekeeping purposes exposes workers to serious and irreversible privacy risks. Per the suit, an employee would have no means by which to prevent identity theft, unauthorized tracking or some other improper use of their data should a database housing fingerprint scans be hacked or breached.
According to the lawsuit, the BIPA provides that a private entity shall pay $1,000 for each negligent violation of the law and $5,000 for each willful violation.
The case looks to represent all individuals working for Walmart in Illinois who had their finger and/or fingerprint scanned, collected, captured, received or otherwise obtained, maintained, stored or disclosed by Walmart, Inc. during the applicable statutory period.
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