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Texas AG sues Facebook parent Meta over facial recognition

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 03: In this photo illustration, the Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a Meta logo on February 03, 2022 in Paris, France. Share prices for Facebook's parent company, Meta, slumped in after-hours trading after the company reported that social network's daily active users declined to 1.929 billion in Q4 of 2021 from 1.930 billion in the previous quarter. Facebook is losing users for the first time in its history, Mark Zuckerberg's company has seen its profits decline, and the transition to the metaverse promises to be chaotic. (Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)

(AP) — The Texas Attorney General is suing Facebook parent Meta, saying the company has unlawfully collected biometric data on Texans for commercial purposes, without their informed consent.

Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the lawsuit Monday a state district court claiming Meta has been “storing millions of biometric identifiers” — identified as retina or iris scans, voice prints, or a record of hand and face geometry — contained in photos and videos people upload to its services, including Facebook and Instagram.

“Facebook will no longer take advantage of people and their children with the intent to turn a profit at the expense of one’s safety and well-being,” Paxton said in a statement. “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.”

The filing of the lawsuit coincided with the first day of early voting in a primary election in Texas, where Paxton faces several GOP challengers in the wake of his top deputies reporting him to the FBI for alleged corruption.

Paxton has been going up against “Big Tech” — a common foe for both Republicans and Democrats even if their criticisms don’t always align. He earlier launched an investigation of Twitter over its ban of former President Donald Trump and filed several lawsuits against Google.

Under Texas law, the lawsuit says, companies must obtain “informed consent” from people to use their biometric data. This means people have to be informed before their biometric data is captured and it can only be done if they agree to it. Such data also cannot be disclosed for anyone else, although there are some exceptions, such as law enforcement subpoenas.

In a statement, Meta Platforms Inc., which is based in Melo Park, California, called the lawsuit “without merit.”

The company said in November that it was shutting down its facial recognition program and deleting its data.

Texas is asking the court to fine Meta $25,000 for each violation of the informed consent rule and $10,000 for each violation of the state’s deceptive trade practices act.

Meta, then called Facebook, paid $650 million to settle a similar lawsuit over photo the use of photo face-tagging and other biometric data in Illinois last year.