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Google is getting sued again, but this suit could set a concerning precedent

A new filing from the AG of Texas could have bigger implications.
By
October 20, 2022
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C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Texas’ attorney general is suing Google for collecting data without consent.
  • The law requires violators to pay $25,000 per violation.
  • This is the first year Texas has ever enforced this 2009 law.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against Google claiming the company collected biometric data without user consent. To prop up his case, Paxton is using a law that has never been enforced until now.

On Thursday, the AG accused Google of violating a state consumer protection law by gathering facial and voice recognition information without the explicit consent of people in the state, according to The New York Times. The filing focuses on three of Google’s products, which include Google Nest, Google Assistant, and the Google Photos app.

To break down Paxton’s issues, Google Nest’s camera has the ability to recognize faces and send alerts when someone is at your door. Google Assistant can learn up to six people’s voices to give them personalized experiences. And the Google Photos app can help users find photos they took of specific people.

The law — called the biometric privacy law — was introduced back in 2009 and requires companies to inform users and get their consent before capturing their biometric identifiers. This includes data such as fingerprints, voiceprints, and a “record of hand or face geometry.”

Any company that violates this Texas law is forced to pay up to $25,000 per violation. Paxton claims that there are potentially millions of people affected.

Texas isn’t the only state that has a law like this. Both Illinois and Washington also have laws. However, in Illinois and Washington, the law enables individuals to sue companies directly, whereas Texas requires the state to sue companies on behalf of its citizens.

Since enacting the law in 2009, Texas has never enforced it, until now. Paxton first used it to go after Meta — the parent company of Facebook — in February for using facial recognition in the past that made it easier for users to tag people. This will mark the second time Paxton has invoked the privacy law.

“Google’s indiscriminate collection of the personal information of Texans, including very sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated,” Mr. Paxton said in a statement. “I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and security of all Texans.”

As Texas grows increasingly litigious toward tech companies, this could set a new precedent. For example, Instagram has to ask permission from Texas consumers to analyze their facial features before they can use any face filters. If Texas continues to sue more companies, this could lead to more developments that inhibit ease-of-use features. It could also encourage other states to adopt and enforce similar or even stricter laws.