Instagram sued in California for illegally harvesting biometric data of 100million users

Instagram is accused of allegedly collecting biometric data of over a hundred million users in a new lawsuit Whalen v. Facebook. 

The new lawsuit filed in the state court of Redwood City, California claims that Instagram has a facial recognition tool to identify people which sometimes automatically scans the faces of people even if they don’t use the app or agree to the terms or services. It then uses the data used on Facebook's main platform.

As per the report by Bloomberg, Facebook, Instagram’s parent company is, “accused of collecting, storing and profiting from the biometric data of more than 100 million Instagram users, without their knowledge or consent.”The lawsuit filed against Instagram claims, "Once Facebook captures its Instagram users’ protected biometrics, it uses them to bolster its facial recognition abilities across all of its products, including the Facebook application, and shares this information among various entities.” 

Some Instagram users reported that iOS 14 alerted them with the 'camera on' pointer without recording anything on the app. However, Instagram responded to the query quickly claiming the issue was nothing but a bug.

When being asked about the issue, Facebook spokesperson Stephanie Otway said in her statement,“ This suit is baseless. Instagram doesn’t use Face recognition technology.”

Under the Illinois law, Facebook could be fined up to $1000 per violation if found guilty of breaking the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires user consent for accessing data.  and up to $5000 if found to have acted recklessly or intentionally. This would sum up to almost a half a trillion dollars- five times the net worth of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Facebook currently values around $740 billion.

Facebook has already faced a similar lawsuit last month. The company “offered to pay” $650 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the illegal use of the similar face-template tool without the consent of its users. The lawsuit claimed that Facebook didn't ask for permission to harvest biometric data and is collecting it since the start of the year. 

In the meantime, Facebook has open-sourced one of its secret security tools for Instagram that finds and fixes bugs. The tool is called Pysa and us now available on open-source vault called GitHub. The company claims that Pysa detected 44% of all security bugs in Instagram's server-side Python code in the first half of the year 2020.