The state of Texas on Monday sued Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta for hundreds of billions of dollars, claiming the social giant invaded Texans’ privacy using facial recognition technology without obtaining their consent.
The lawsuit claims that Facebook and Instagram snooped on the photos and videos people posted to their accounts using facial recognition technology – and is seeking a staggering amount of damages.
Under Texas law, companies are required to obtain user consent before capturing biometric data, including retinas and “facial geometries” – steps Meta has not taken because while he was “covertly harvesting” data from tens of millions of Texans, according to state attorney general Ken Paxton, who filed the petition in Harrison County, Texas, District Court.
Each violation of state law would result in a fine of up to $25,000, meaning the social media giant founded by Mark Zuckerberg could face a crippling fine of hundreds of billions of dollars — or even of a trillion dollars – if the state gets what it wants.
Meta shares were trading down 0.6% at midday on Monday, giving the company a market value of just below $600 billion.
“The state is bringing this lawsuit to hold Facebook accountable for covertly flouting Texas law for more than a decade,” the lawsuit reads. “Facebook has knowingly captured biometric information for its own business benefit, to train and improve its facial recognition technology, and thus create a powerful artificial intelligence (“AI”) device that reaches every corner of the world and ensnares even those who have intentionally avoided using Facebook Services.
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
In 2020, Meta settled a similar lawsuit filed under Illinois privacy laws for a whopping $550 million. Then, in November 2021, the company said it was permanently shutting down its facial recognition system and deleting the records of more than a billion people, citing “growing societal concerns” about the technology.
Texas argues that Meta should still be punished even though he has stopped using the technology.
“Facebook finally claimed to have ceased its invasive and illegal facial recognition practices at the end of 2021,” Texas argued in its lawsuit. “By this point, however, he had spent over a decade covertly exploiting Texans and their personal information to perfect his AI device. There cannot be a free pass for Facebook.
The lawsuit also suggested that while Meta claims to have deleted facial recognition data collected by Facebook, it may still retain data collected through Instagram, WhatsApp or its Metaverse apps.
Separate from Monday’s lawsuit, Paxton is also waging an ongoing legal battle against Google over what it says is its monopolistic hold over the online advertising market.
“This is yet another example of Big Tech’s deceptive business practices and it must stop,” Paxton said in a statement Monday. “Facebook will no longer take advantage of people and their children for the purpose of profit at the expense of their safety and well-being.”
New York Post