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In Your Face

12th August 2019

Can we legislate for what happens and what ought to happen when worldwide connectivity and recognition is, quite literally, in your face?

Who are you? A picture of a human face isn’t just a valid form of ID or online introduction. It’s a window to everything we are. How far do we have the legal right to retain control over its use?

Facebook is currently learning the hard way that our rights may extend further than they expected.

Social media users are accustomed to sharing images, and many of us don’t give much thought to how they’re used. Perhaps we should. Biometric data uploaded to Facebook has been used to help identify people in completely unrelated scenarios. In the UK, police use of facial recognition data has been questioned as a violation of privacy and the American Civil Liberties Union argue that it’s a highly dubious form of surveillance. This week, Facebook is facing a class action law suit from a group of its users in Illinois who claim that their images were used in ways they didn’t give permission for. Depending on how the case progresses, we could see millions of social media users following suit. In their defence, Facebook argues that it’s always disclosed its use of face recognition technology and users are free to switch it on or off as the choose. The case is far from clear cut but round one has been won by social media users. A court has ruled that the people concerned have incurred “sufficient privacy injuries” to sue as a group.

Can privacy law keep pace with technological advances?

Can we legislate for what happens and what ought to happen when worldwide connectivity and recognition is, quite literally, in your face?

It’s our pleasure to work with legal professionals who keep looking for answers. They keep balancing the rights of individuals, corporations and governments skilfully and ethically, and they keep working towards outcomes that are both reasonable and practical. They stay vigilant and help us retain control over what’s rightfully ours, whether it’s employment, property or something as fundamental and personal as what we see when we look in a mirror.

Who has the legal right to watch your face?

We’ll keep you posted; watch this space.