WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) – The Texas attorney general’s office sued Meta’s (FB.O) Facebook on Monday, alleging that the social media giant violated state privacy protections with facial-recognition technology that collected the biometric data of millions of Texans without their consent.
The lawsuit accuses Facebook of capturing biometric information from photos and videos that users uploaded without consent, disclosing the information to others and failing to destroy it within a reasonable time.
“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,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.
The lawsuit was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which cited a person familiar with the matter as saying that the state was seeking hundreds of billions of dollars in civil penalties.
Asked about the lawsuit, a Meta spokesperson said: “These claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”
The company said in a blog post in November that it was shutting down a facial recognition system and would delete more than a billion people’s information. It cited concerns about use of the technology and uncertainty over what the rules are regarding its use.
It also agreed to pay $650 million in 2020 to settle an Illinois state lawsuit that dealt with similar concerns.
The new lawsuit, which was filed in a state court in Marshall, Texas, says that 20.5 million Texans have a Facebook account.
“The scope of Facebook’s misconduct is staggering,” the lawsuit said. “Facebook repeatedly captured Texans’ biometric identifiers without consent not hundreds, or thousands, or millions of times — but billions of times,” the lawsuit said.
Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by David Gregorio and Aurora Ellis