Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton during a press conference in Weslaco, Texas on January 27, 2022.
Joel Martinez / The Monitor via AP
The Texas attorney general is suing Meta, the parent company of Facebook, alleging that the company unlawfully collected biometric data on Texans for commercial purposes, without their informed consent.
Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit Monday in state district court, saying Meta had “stored millions of biometric identifiers” – identified as retina or iris scans, voiceprints or a record of hand and facial geometry – contained in photos and videos that people upload to its services, including Facebook and Instagram.
“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 filing of the lawsuit coincided with the first day of early voting in a Texas primary election, where Paxton faces several GOP challengers following his top aides reporting him to the FBI for alleged corruption.
Paxton clashed with “Big Tech” – a common enemy for Republicans and Democrats, even if their critics don’t always agree. He previously launched an investigation into Twitter over his banning of former President Donald Trump and filed several lawsuits against Google.
Under Texas law, the lawsuit says, companies must obtain “informed consent” from people to use their biometric data. This means that people must be informed before their biometrics are captured and this can only be done if they consent. This data also cannot be disclosed to anyone else, although there are some exceptions, such as law enforcement subpoenas.
In a statement, Meta Platforms Inc., based in Melo Park, Calif., called the lawsuit “without merit.”
The company said in November it was shutting down its facial recognition program and deleting its data.
Texas is asking the court to fine Meta $25,000 for each violation of the informed consent rule and $10,000 for each violation of the state’s deceptive marketing practices law.
Meta, then Facebook, paid $650 million to settle a similar lawsuit over the use of photos and other biometric data in Illinois last year.