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Texas sues Facebook meta-mother over facial recognition data

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The Texas attorney general on Monday filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Facebook’s parent company, for allegedly collecting facial recognition data without users’ clear permission.

Ken Paxton, the attorney general, said the social network violated a state consumer protection law by repeatedly capturing and marketing biometric data in photos and videos for more than a decade without the informed consent of users. He said the company also shared the data with third parties and failed to destroy the information within a reasonable time.

“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,” Paxton said in a statement. “This is yet another example of Big Tech’s deceptive business practices, and it must stop. I will continue to fight for the privacy and safety of Texans.

The lawsuit adds to Meta’s legal battles as local and national regulators target big tech companies for their dominance and practices. In 2019, Facebook agreed to create new levels of surveillance in a confidentiality agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, for which it also paid a $5 billion fine. The FTC and nearly all state attorneys general are also seeking to take down Meta for allegedly crushing the competition to maintain its social media dominance.

“These claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves,” a spokeswoman for Meta said.

Texas files lawsuit a year after Facebook settled a similar class action lawsuit in Illinois for $650 million to use face tagging without users permission. Facebook failed to have the lawsuit dismissed. Under scrutiny for its use of facial recognition data, the company also announced in November that it would delete the facial recognition data of more than one billion users.

In the absence of a federal privacy law, dozens of states have enacted their own privacy, content moderation, and antitrust laws. In 2009, Texas passed a law prohibiting the collection and use of facial recognition and other biometric data, such as fingerprints and retina scans. Illinois also has its own data privacy law on facial recognition and other sensitive biometric information.

Mr Paxton told a press conference on Monday he was seeking damages of “billions of dollars”. There were about 20 million users in Texas, and each violation, he said, can result in penalties of $25,000.