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Surge in Biometric Privacy Suits Causes Firms to Boost Specialty

Published by Bloomberg Law

By Sara Merken

Posted March 14, 2019, 3:45 AM

Law firms are forming new practice groups and hiring attorneys to handle a sharp rise in Illinois biometric privacy litigation, amid companies’ growing use of fingerprint, facial recognition, and palm print technology.

The trend highlights the growing demand for services related to biometric privacy—and what potentially is at stake for companies facing class action lawsuits for alleged violations.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in January that consumers don’t have to show specific harm in order to sue companies under the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA)—opening the door for more plaintiffs to seek damages for alleged misuse of personal data.

Illinois is one of only three states with a biometric privacy law and the only state that allows consumers to sue for alleged violations.

Firms also are building out their biometric technology teams to help companies avoid lawsuits in the first place, as employers and other companies collect data such as retina scans when employees clock in and out of work each day.

Defense and plaintiffs’ attorneys alike are tracking lower Illinois court rulings in pending biometric cases in the wake of Rosenbach, because those decisions could help clarify and further refine questions about damages, covered technology, and the statute of limitations.

Under the Illinois law, enacted in 2008, companies are required to notify individuals and obtain consent before collecting and storing their biometric data. The privacy law allows plaintiffs to recover as much as $1,000 per unintentional violation or $5,000 per intentional violation.

Texas and Washington also have biometric privacy laws. These laws, enforced by the states’ attorneys general, also regulate commercial use of biometric identifiers and require companies to secure biometric data.

Pending Cases, Open Questions

Some of the coming lawsuits may help answer outstanding questions on the parameters of the Illinois law, attorneys told Bloomberg Law. Pending cases, which were stayed pending the high court’s ruling, also may address some of the questions.

“Now that there’s a little more clarity from the Supreme Court, I think there are some open issues that some firms are going to try and raise,” said Brandon Wise, of counsel at Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane APLC, which represents plaintiffs in multiple BIPA class action lawsuits.

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Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane represents employees and consumers in class action lawsuits against businesses and corporations around the world that improperly utilize biometric data technologies. If your employer is collecting biometric data, you may have a case. Please contact the Employee Rights lawyers at Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane by filling out an online contact form or by calling 314-833-4825 for a FREE Consultation.