Labaton Sucharow and Co-Lead Counsel Defeat Summary Judgment in Facebook Biometrics Case; Trial Set for July 2018

New York, NY (May 18, 2018) One of the most closely watched data privacy cases of the year is moving ahead to trial, after Judge James Donato of the of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied Facebook’s motions for summary judgment.

In his ruling, issued on May 14, Judge Donato rejected all of Facebook’s arguments that the company’s conduct and use of its facial scanning technology are not covered by the statute’s intent to regulate biometrics data.

“Facebook makes a stab at avoiding trial by suggesting that “scan” in ‘scan of face geometry’ necessarily connotes an express measurement of human facial features – for instance, ‘a measurement of the distance between a person’s eyes, nose, and ears.’ But the argument is of no moment…” according to the ruling. The court held that the “Plaintiffs have identified more than enough evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude their biometric data was harvested.”

Judge Donato further notes in his ruling that “limiting scans of face geometry to techniques that literally measure distances, depths, and angles cannot be squared with the legislature’s clear intent to regulate emergent biometric data collection technology in whatever specific form it takes.”

The class action filed by Labaton on behalf of certain Illinois Facebook users in April 2015 alleges that Facebook violates Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act by collecting and storing biometric information through its facial recognition software without first obtaining informed written consent.

“We are pleased with Judge Donato’s ruling and we are looking forward to trying the case in front of a jury,” Labaton partner Michael Canty said. “As companies are increasingly investing in new products that use biometric indicators, this case will highlight privacy concerns related to the collection and storage of biometric data.”

The trial is set for July 9, 2018. Pre-trial submissions are due May 31 and a pre-trial conference is scheduled for June 14.