Facebook must face a class action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology, a judge has ruled.
California District Judge James Donato ruled in San Francisco federal court that a class action was the most efficient way to resolve the dispute over facial templates.
The lawsuit claims Facebook gathered biometric information without the explicit consent of its users.
The ruling is a further blow to the social network after it emerged that millions of users’ information had been compromised in the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.
Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg sat through a grilling from Congress about the leak for almost ten hours.
The facial recognition lawsuit involves Facebook’s “tag suggestions” technology – not currently available in the UK – which identifies users’ friends in photos – it is alleged that this is in breach of Illinois state law.
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Judge Donato certified a class of Facebook users in Illinois “for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011″, according to the court order.
That was the date the tag suggestions feature was launched by the company.
Certifying a class is a major hurdle before plaintiffs can reach a potential settlement or trial.
As part of a class action, anyone in that group could be entitled to compensation if it is successful.
Judge Donato wrote in his ruling: “Facebook seems to believe… statutory damages could amount to billions of dollars.”
In a statement, Facebook said it was reviewing the ruling.
It said: “We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously.”
Facebook users sued in 2015, alleging violations of an Illinois state law about the privacy of biometric information.