Facebook class action looms over facial recognition software

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In this case, the plaintiffs are claiming that the social network illegally used a facial recognition system on photos without users' permission.

In his ruling, US District Judge James Donato determined that the "claims are sufficiently cohesive to allow for a fair and efficient resolution on a class basis".

The ruling comes as the social network is snared in a scandal over the mishandling of 87 million users' data ahead of the 2016 United States presidential election.

"As more people become aware of the scope of Facebook's data collection and as consequences begin to attach to that data collection, whether economic or regulatory, Facebook will have to take a long look at its privacy practices and make changes consistent with user expectations and regulatory requirements", Shawn Williams, the plaintiffs' attorney, told Bloomberg.

Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg sat through a grilling from Congress about the leak for nearly ten hours. According to a court order, the class of people are Facebook users in IL for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011.

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That was the date the tag suggestions feature was launched by the company.

In the USA court system, certification of a class is typically a major hurdle that plaintiffs in proposed class actions need to overcome before reaching a possible settlement or trial, Reuters noted.

As part of a class action, anyone in that group could be entitled to compensation if it is successful.

Facebook said it is reviewing the ruling.

Judge Donato wrote in his ruling: "Facebook seems to believe... statutory damages could amount to billions of dollars". "If you've never been tagged in a photo on Facebook or have untagged yourself in all photos of you on Facebook, then we do not have this summary information for you", the company says.