The Texas Attorney General's office is suing Facebook for allegedly violating state law when the social media platform captured and used biometric information from photos or videos uploaded to the site without users' consent.
"Facebook has been storing millions of biometric identifiers contained in photos and videos uploaded by friends and family who used the social media app," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. "The company repeatedly captured biometric identifiers without consent billions of times, in knowing violation of Texas' Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act."
The lawsuit also alleges that the information was shared with other parties, and was not destroyed in a timely manner, which exposed Texans "to ever-increasing risks to their well-being, safety and security," according to the filing, which states that more than 20 million Texans had a Facebook account as of 2021.
The lawsuit, against Facebook parent company Meta Platforms, Inc., asserts that even people who weren't on Facebook but appeared in photos on the site were harmed by the practice.
"The problem for Texas consumers is unlike a social security number which can be changed, or a driver's license (number) that can be changes, or other information that potentially could be captured by social media companies, this can't be changed," Paxton said.
The identifying biometric information includes "a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or record of hand or face geometry," according to Paxton's statement.
The lawsuit claims that Facebook violated the Texas Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act, and the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act, which carry penalties of $25,000 and $10,000, respectively, for each violation, according to the filing.
A spokesperson for Meta said in an email: "These claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."
Facebook stopped using facial recognition last year. The company also entered into a class-action settlement after it was sued in federal court in Illinois for violating that state's privacy laws.
The Texas lawsuit was filed in state district court in Marshall, Texas, where Paxton held a short press conference announcing the litigation. It came on the first day of early voting in Texas for the March 1 primary election where Paxton faces a slew of challengers. They include Republican U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, whose district includes Marshall.
When asked by reporters why he chose Marshall, Paxton said it made sense.
"We file all over the state of Texas. We know that a lot of technology lawsuits are filed here and so it seemed like an appropriate place to file this lawsuit. We could have really filed it anywhere in Texas," he said.
When asked specifically if the venue had anything to do with Gohmert, Paxton said: "Zero. This has been planned for a long time and we would have filed it either way."
Paxton also declined to address criticisms from his opponents, who also include Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.
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