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February 16, 2022

More Privacy Concerns From Social Media

ISN‘T IT TIME COMPANIES RESPECTED OUR PRIVACY WHEN WE’RE COMMUNICATING WITH LOVED ONES?

META SUED IN TEXAS FOR VIOLATING THE PRIVACY OF USERS.

More evidence that Meta (formerly known as Facebook) does NOT respect your privacy surfaced recently, as the Texas Attorney General announced a lawsuit against the social media giant. Read more to see how Meta has been violating the privacy of their users.

Facial recognition technology has been in use for the past decade or more. In Texas, a company must receive explicit consent from a user before collecting what Texas refers to as “biometric identifiers.” The state passed this law in an effort to protect the privacy of residents. Meta announced in November 2021 that they have discontinued the practice, however, the fact that it was in clear violation of Texas state law seems almost certain.

This is not the first time a state has found the company to be in violation of state privacy laws. In March of 2021, Meta was ordered to pay the state of Illinois $650 million after their collection practices were found to be in violation of the Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

In Texas, the suit alleges that Meta collected biometric identifiers from adults and children without consent by saving data when users signed-in via facial recognition. Even when adults can be seen as giving consent by use of the platform, children cannot consent to giving privacy rights up.

The suit also includes evidence that Meta (Facebook) set up external collection points at places such as grocery stores and other retail establishments, a practice that clearly violated the state’s privacy law.

Facebook knowingly captured biometric information for its own commercial benefit, to train and improve its facial recognition technology, and thereby create a powerful artificial intelligence apparatus that reaches all corners of the world and ensnares even those who have intentionally avoided using Facebook services.
Ken Paxton
Attorney General of Texas

HOW WAS FACEBOOK USING COLLECTED BIOMETRIC DATA TO VIOLATE TEXAS PRIVACY LAWS?

Texas did not provide much context in their suit, but Meta’s other data practices provide us with hints as to how they were using the biometric data and how it fell afoul of the privacy statute. Much of the data collected over the years has been sold to advertisers to help them create more targeted and directed advertising. European lawmakers have expressed concern over these practices, and have taken action to prevent the social media company from using private data any way they please, especially ways that violate users’ privacy.

We DO know that the company changed their name in 2021 from Facebook to Meta, with a stated goal to explore the “metaverse.” This new digital space is more in line with virtual reality, and is what Facebook has been focused on building for the past few years. So the biometric data they collected has been used to that end, by mapping the facial markers of users, to help create digital avatars for this digital world. What privacy issues will be raised from this new frontier remain unclear.