Jury finds BNSF Railway guilty of violating Illinois biometric privacy law

CHICAGO (CBS) — Railroad giant BNSF has been found guilty of violating the privacy of 45,000 drivers.

In US District Court in Chicago on Wednesday, a jury returned a $228 million verdict to truckers who filed a class action lawsuit. BNSF was found guilty of violating the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA).

State law basically states that you can collect iris scans, fingerprints, voiceprints, facial geometry scans, but you must get written consent to do so.

The Rogers v BNSF Railway Company lawsuit accused BNSF of using a fingerprint system that allowed conductors access to rail yards for pickups and drop-offs, but failed to obtain written consent from conductors who complied with BIPA requirements, according to a press release from law firm Honigman LLP.

The jury determined that the BNSF violated the BIPA 45,600 times and returned a verdict of $228 million – awarding a maximum fine of $5,000 per occurrence, according to the law firm.

Since the law was passed, Facebook has also been grappling with a $650 million settlement for its “face models.”

TikTok was ordered to pay $93 million for its facial recognition software. Snapchat had to pay Illinois residents $35 million for their “lenses” and “filters.”

And just recently, Google was ordered by a Cook County judge to pay $100 million for its “face clustering tool” and 14 years later, Illinois companies are still breaking that law.

There have been backlashes from lawmakers who have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to repeal the law. Many believe it is too strict. And it’s true, Illinois’ biometric protections are the strictest in the country.

The state of Maine was actually about to pass a law recently that would mirror that of Illinois, but it didn’t pass. As it stands, Illinois is the only state in the country with this type of biometric privacy law.


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