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Google Sued in Louisiana for Allegedly Selling Biometric Data

The case alleges that the tech giant has been capturing and selling data from Louisianans, violating the state’s consumer protection and privacy law. A similar lawsuit was settled earlier this year in Illinois for $100 million.

(TNS) — Google Inc. is being sued in Louisiana over allegations that the online-search giant has been capturing and selling biometric data from residents in violation of the state's consumer protection and privacy law.

Sandra Nomey, a retired hotel executive, and Nathan Bandaries, one of the lawyers bringing the case in Louisiana, are the named plaintiffs in the suit filed earlier this year in Orleans Parish Civil District Court. The case was moved to federal district court in New Orleans in late September.

The plaintiffs, who have sought class action status, claims that there are "hundreds of thousands" of putative class members.

The lawsuit is similar to a case in Illinois which was settled earlier this year for $100 million. Illinois and Louisiana have similar consumer protection laws that prohibit the use of an individual's fingerprints, face or other biometric data, captured through photographs for example, without their explicit consent.

The Illinois settlement was itself similar to a case settled last year by Facebook in that state for $650 million.

About 1.6 million Illinois residents filed claims in the Facebook settlement.

"The Illinois settlement shows that Google were aware of the issue that they were using this data in violation of state laws that protect it," said Michael Stag, an attorney for the Louisiana plaintiffs. "In Louisiana, we have a strong privacy law that protects us as well, so we believe our claims should prevail."

Google, which is a subsidiary of parent company Alphabet Inc. and headquartered in Mountain View, California, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did Google's Louisiana attorney in the case.

The Louisiana Legislature passed a law in 2018 to protect biometric data and allow citizens to bring action against entities that misuse personal data.

In the Illinois case, based on that state's 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act, claimants are eligible "if, at any time between May 1, 2015 and April 25, 2022, you appeared in a photograph in Google Photos while you were an Illinois resident," according to the settlement.

In that case, each of the five plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are expected to get $5,000 and attorneys will split $35 million in fees and costs.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the judge indicated around 420,000 claims were filed in the case, which would work out at around $150 for each one.

Earlier this month, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry wrote to Google to let the company know that his office had received a formal complaint in relation to the case. Landry said the communication did not necessarily mean that his office had opened a formal investigation.

Google also settled earlier this month a case brought by 40 state attorneys general who had alleged the company violated privacy laws. Google agreed to pay about $392 million in a settlement with the states over allegations that it tracked people through their devices after location tracking had been turned off.

(c)2022 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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