Facebook (FB) may still be on its apology tour in the wake of its Cambridge Analytica data scandal, but Alphabet’s (GOOG) Google is moving aggressively to try and roll back a privacy law concerned with biometrics.
Illinois Privacy Law Seen as Strict
At the same time that Facebook was in clean-up mode after news that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica accessed data on 87 million users without their consent, lobbyists at Google were putting together measures aimed at curbing a law in Illinois that is seen as one of the strictest privacy protection laws in the country. The Biometric Information Privacy Act is the only law that allows people to sue companies that use their biometric data without their permission. (See more: Facebook Data Scandal Doesn't Slow Online Sharing.)
Google lobbyists want to remove language from the law that regulates the use of biometric data including fingerprints, iris scans, and facial recognition and wants to insert language that would give companies using biometrics a workaround, according to Bloomberg. For instance, Google wants photos to be exempt from the law despite facing allegations that it collected and stored biometric data on millions of people without their consent, noted the report.
With the help of Google, Illinois state senator Bill Cunningham proposed an amendment to the Biometric Information Privacy Act that adds some caveats to the law including photos being exempt from regulatory oversight. The amendment is aimed at reducing the number of lawsuits. While Facebook said it hasn’t been involved in any lobbying to have the legislation rolled back, it would benefit from a slackening of the privacy protections, as would Google. (See more: Google Not Facebook Collects More Data On Users.)
The changes to the bill have had a tough time in the Illinois state senate. According to Bloomberg, it has been pulled from the agenda twice, over concerns about the bill's ultimate goals. Cunningham told Bloomberg he will continue to work with Google’s lobbyists, privacy advocates and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce to find a compromise. Cunningham's main goal is to end the lawsuits that have piled up because of the Biometric Privacy Act. Bloomberg noted the law has resulted in 140 lawsuits since 2014. “It’s my goal to find a middle ground where we protect the privacy of citizens and their biometric material, but do it in a way that allows people in Illinois to access technologies and applications that everyone else in the country is accessing," Cunningham said in the report. “You can allow for certain technological advances without relieving the burden on businesses to protect that data. IIf a business is negligent in protecting biometric material, they should be held accountable.” The bill is expected to be called to committee on April 26. If it passes the house after the senate, next up will be the governor’s desk.