Months after announcing the sunset of its face recognition system, Facebook's parent company Meta Platforms has been sued by the US state of Texas for collecting biometric data of millions of people without their consent, reported the Wall Street Journal.
"Facebook unlawfully captured biometric identifiers of Texans for commercial purposes without their informed consent, disclosed those identifiers to others and failed to destroy collected identifiers within a reasonable time," said the state attorney general's office in the lawsuit.
Meta Platforms had said in November 2021 that it's shutting down the face recognition system and will delete the facial recognition templates of more than one billion people.
Facebook's face recognition system automatically recognised people from photos and videos. It also provided users the option to enable face recognition for suggested tagging or see a suggested tag with their name in photos and videos.
According to the company, more than one-third of Facebook's daily active users had opted for the face recognition settings.
Though Meta maintained that face recognition technology was used only for internal purposes, the fact that the social media company had built one of the largest repositories of face biometric in the world was disconcerting for many. The company's poor track record with privacy that was exposed in the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018 and alleged lack of transparency over many practices that was also reiterated by whistleblower Frances Haugen have only heightened many of these concerns.
Face recognition technology in general has been red flagged by privacy advocates for being intrusive and unreliable for use in law enforcement.
Privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation has called them "alarmingly more error-prone when applied to anyone who is not white and cisgender" in one of their recent blog posts.
To reiterate their point, they also referred to a testing by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of various face recognition systems. Their findings show a dramatic trend of disparate false positives and higher error rates for non-white and male.
Regulators in several countries are closely looking into the use of face recognition technology by organisations and governments. Several cities in the US including San Francisco and Boston have banned law enforcement agencies from using face recognition technology for surveillance purposes. It's usage has also been banned in Belgium.
In India, use of face recognition has grown in the last few years, despite the fact that the country doesn't have any laws to regulate and prevent misuse of face recognition technology.
According to privacy watchdog Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), as of 2021, India had 75 FRTs installed across India by various central or state government agencies including government schools, airports, railways for surveillance and verification of people.