WeWork and a number of Chicago subsidiaries have been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges the shared workspace company’s practice of using facial recognition software to track how its office space is used violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
Filed in Cook County Court, the case explains thatSoftBank-controlledWeWork – which is currently fending offshareholder lawsuitsover its floundered IPO, facing waves of criticism overhow much it paid its former CEOon his way out, and in the process of shuttering all of its "non-core” businesseswhileextensive layoffs loom– purports to be the “future of white collar labor.” The real estate company, the suit says, offers startups, freelance workers, and corporations short-term, shared, state-of-the-art workspaces that reportedly come replete with fashionable furnishings and a bolstered level of security.
One of WeWork’s high-tech security toys is the sensor-driven facial recognition software the company uses to, the suit says, “track how its office space is used, down to data as granular as how [workers] adjust their desks and what parts of the office see the highest foot traffic.” In effect, the lawsuit goes on, when an individual steps into a WeWork office space, they’re unwittingly enrolled into the defendants’ facial recognition database “using a previously provided photo” of their facial geometry. WeWork in turn uses this database to “monitor individuals in their office spaces,” as well as track movement outside an office, the case says.
According to the complaint, WeWork disregards Illinois consumers’ privacy rights by unlawfully collecting, storing, disseminating and using unique biometric data without adhering to the state’s BIPA. The law, the case explains, requires companies who handle unique biometric identifiers such as fingerprints and facial scans to:
Properly inform consumers in writing of the specific purpose and length of time for which their facial geometry is being collected, stored, and used;
Publish a publicly available retention schedule and guidelines for the permanent destruction of consumers’ facial data;
Receive a written release from consumers before collecting, storing, disseminating or otherwise using facial geometry; and
Obtain consent from a consumer to disclose, redisclose or otherwise share their biometric information.
As the lawsuit tells it, proposed class members, upon having their faces scanned by WeWork, were never told what might happen to their biometric information, say, in the event of a merger with another company or if the defendants folded.
“These violations have raised a material risk that Plaintiff’s and other similarly-situated individuals biometric data will be unlawfully accessed by third parties,” the case reads.