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Texas sues Facebook for misusing facial recognition data

State wants up to $25,000 per alleged violation for discontinued program

The state of Texas has sued Facebook parent company Meta over its discontinued facial recognition system, claiming that it captured citizens' facial data without their informed consent.

In a suit filed Tuesday, state Attorney General Ken Paxton accused the company of "illegal and deceptive conduct" that it repeated billions of times by running recognition algorithms on pictures of them, their friends and family.

The lawsuit says that the practices violated a 2009 state law known as CUBI that required informed consent for the capture of biometric identifiers. It also requires anyone holding biometric data to destroy it in a reasonable time period.

It accuses Meta of collecting biometric data from unwitting users and failing to delete it in line with CUBI's requirements. It also criticizes the company for running facial recognition on other pictures that users uploaded.

"Texas who used Facebook's social media services were oblivious to the fact that Facebook - without their permission - was capturing biometric information from photos and videos that users had uploaded for the sole purpose of sharing with family and friends," the suit said.

The company also failed to notify users of its Instagram service that it was using their data, it adds.

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The suit requests payments of up to $25,000 per infraction, and says that Meta broke the law "not hundreds, or thousands, or millions of times - but billions of times".

Facebook shut down its facial recognition system in November 2021, vowing to delete more than a billion individual facial recognition templates.

Paxton is no stranger to big tech investigations. He launched an investigation into Twitter's content moderation practices last year, which prompted a retaliatory suit from Twitter. He filed an amicus brief last September with nine other AGs in support of Florida's social media censorship law, after Texas passed a similar bill, and also filed an amicus brief supporting Epic Games in its lawsuit against Apple earlier this month.

"This is yet another example of big tech’s deceitful business practices and it must stop. I will continue to fight for Texans’ privacy and security," Paxton said, describing the Meta lawsuit this week.

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