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Texas Sues Facebook, Alleges Platform Was 'Secretly Capturing' Users' 'Highly Sensitive Information'

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Texas is suing Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc., for violating the state’s privacy protections. This is just one more addition to the many legal battles in which the social media giant is currently embroiled.

The lawsuit, filed by Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton, states that Facebook unlawfully collected facial recognition data without user consent, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Meta has discontinued facial recognition technology, which was often used for “tag suggestions” to encourage users to link photos to a friend’s profile.

But the lawsuit brought by Texas alleges that Facebook should be responsible for billions of dollars in damages. Paxton said that the company violated the privacy laws of Texas by using the biometric data of millions throughout the state, both those who used Facebook and those who did not, NPR reported.

“In this action, the State alleges that Facebook unlawfully captured the biometric identifiers of Texans for a commercial purpose without their informed consent, disclosed those identifiers to others and failed to destroy collected identifiers within a reasonable time, all in violation of the Texas Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act,” the lawsuit says.

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Paxton also released a statement that clarified that the company captured facial geometry in photos that users uploaded from 2010 to last year — when Facebook discontinued their facial recognition. This resulted in “tens of million of violations” of Texas law.

“Facebook has been secretly harvesting Texans’ most personal information — photos and videos — for its own corporate profit,” Paxton said, the Journal reported.

“Texas law has prohibited such harvesting without informed consent for over 20 years. While ordinary Texans have been using Facebook to innocently share photos of loved ones with friends and family, we now know that Facebook has been brazenly ignoring Texas law for the last decade,” he added.

“‘Facebook was secretly capturing, disclosing, unlawfully retaining — and profiting off of — Texans’ most personal and highly sensitive information,” the complaint reads, according to the Journal.

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Texas law makes it unlawful to capture people’s biometric identifiers without consent. The state’s laws also prohibit sharing any identifier information.

The law also provides a $25,000 per violation committed. With millions of Texans using Facebook, the lawsuit is estimating billions of dollars in damages, the Journal reported.

Paxton condemned “Big Tech” in general for these kind of illegal practices and said that Facebook must stop taking advantage of its users like this.

“Facebook will no longer take advantage of people and their children with the intent to turn a profit at the expense of one’s safety and well-being. This is yet another example of Big Tech’s deceitful business practices, and it must stop. I will continue to fight for Texans’ privacy and security,” Paxton said in a statement, the New York Times reported.

Texas’ lawsuit is significant since it is officially coming from a state, but lawsuits of this type are nothing new for Facebook.

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Last year Facebook settled a class action suit that users brought against it. The suit said that user data has been used without consent. Facebook settled for $650 million, NPR reported.

But besides class action suits, the Federal Trade Commission and other state attorney generals have been after Meta.

In 2019, Facebook agreed to create more oversight in a privacy settlement with the FTC. It also had to pay a $5 billion fine.

“The FTC and nearly every state attorney general are also seeking to break up Meta for allegedly squashing competition to maintain its dominance in social networking,” the Times reported.

Meta has been vocal about defending itself in these suits, though.

“These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously,” a spokeswoman for Meta said, the Times reported.

But if Texas’ lawsuit succeeds, it will mean another significant payout from Facebook, as John Davisson, the director of litigation and senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center told NPR.

“If the case succeeds, it could mean a major financial award for Texas,” Davisson said. “[W]hich the state should put toward protecting privacy and compensating Texans who were caught up in Facebook’s facial recognition system.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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