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Microsoft, Amazon, Google Sued For Alleged Privacy Violation In Use Of IBM Facial Recognition Database

Microsoft, Amazon, Google Sued For Alleged Privacy Violation In Use Of IBM Facial Recognition Database

Several leading technology companies in the United States are facing lawsuits filed by two Illinois residents Tuesday on allegations of violating a state law governing biometric privacy.

What Happened

Amazon Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN), Alphabet Inc's (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG) subsidiary Google and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) used photos of individuals to train their facial recognition technologies without taking prior consent, Steven Vance and Tim Janecyk have alleged, as reported by CNET.

The photos were included in the International Business Machines Corporation's (NYSE: IBM) Diversity in Faces database, a collection of more than 1 million images designed to improve fairness and accuracy in facial recognition technology, according to the lawsuits.

Vance and Janecyk allege that their photos were included in the IBM database without permission even though they clearly identified themselves as Illinois residents, where collection, storage, and use of biometric information isn't allowed without written consent under the Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008. 

Why It Matters

The lawsuits, which seek class-action status, have been filed in California and Washington states and demand monetary damages and a restraint on the defendants' use of the IBM database, CNET reported.

Facial recognition technology suffers from low accuracy rates in identifying women and minorities and has the potential to turn into an omnipresent form of surveillance.

IBM has already discontinued offering general-purpose facial recognition or analysis software citing inconsistency with its values.

Microsoft said last month that it would not offer facial recognition software to police departments, and Amazon stopped selling such technology to police last year.

Price Action

Amazon shares traded 0.3% higher at $3,093.60 in the pre-market session Wednesday. Microsoft shares were up nearly 0.5% at $209.38, and Alphabet Class A shares traded slightly lower at $1,520.

Image by Mike MacKenzie on Flickr.


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