Beginning in the mid-to-late 2000s, private entities in Illinois increasingly began deploying biometric identification systems to streamline identity verification. Although the use of these systems in the corporate sector helps maximize profits by increasing productivity and efficiency, the ease with which biometrics are electronically extracted, stored, and disseminated makes them vulnerable to abuse from entities seeking to profit off the data, hackers bent on identity theft, and foreign governments building databases of U.S. citizens.
With the rise of biometric technology and commensurate threats posed from its use, the Illinois legislature responded to the “very serious need” to protect the biometrics of Illinois citizens by unanimously passing the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in 2008.
Biometric data protected under BIPA include fingerprints, handprints, retina scans, voice recognition and facial geometry. All of this information is biologically unique to the individual; therefore, once compromised, an individual has no recourse and is at a heightened risk for identity theft and other misuse. Unless safeguards are instituted and followed, employees and consumers are exposed to serious and irreversible privacy risks.
For example, if a fingerprint database is hacked, breached, or otherwise compromised, victims have no way to prevent the misappropriation and theft of their own biometric makeup. Unlike social security numbers, credit card numbers or other financial information, biometric data is part of a person’s physical being and impossible to change – an alarming reality, especially considering that a black market already exists for biometric data.
Recognizing these risks, BIPA – the strongest law in the Unites States which protects individuals’ biometric data – achieves its goal by making it unlawful for a private entity to collect, store, use, or disseminate a person’s biometric data unless it first:
- Informs the person in writing that biometric data is being collected, stored, disseminated or used;
- Informs the person in writing of the specific purpose and length of term for which
biometric data is being collected, stored, or used;
- Receives a written release executed by the person (See more here) and their consent to collect, store, use, or disseminate their biometric data, and;
- Establishes and adheres to a written, publicly-available biometric retention and destruction schedule.
BIPA provides for statutory damages of $5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation of BIPA or, in the alternative, statutory damages of $1,000 for each negligent violation.
Notwithstanding its simple, straightforward and easily-understood requirements, many private entities operating in Illinois—including some of the largest corporations in the world—have persistently disregarded the law. In the employment context alone, private entities have collected, used, stored and disseminated biometric data from hundreds of thousands of Illinois citizens from all walks of life, from critical care nurses to grocery store employees to factory workers, without informed consent.
That’s why in early 2017, our firm filed the first BIPA case in the employment context, and ever since has pioneered trailblazing litigation under the statute and recovered tens of millions of dollars for hundreds of thousands of Illinois citizens. Recognizing our expertise in the area, state and federal courts have appointed our attorneys to lead dozens of high-stakes BIPA class actions against some of the largest corporations in the world.
We’ve argued before the Illinois Supreme Court for people whose BIPA rights were violated an unprecedented four times, more than any other firm, and won groundbreaking victories that: 1) BIPA claims accrue each time a private entity collects or disseminates a person’s biometric data without securing their prior informed consent and a release (Cothron v. White Castle); and 2) all claims under BIPA are subject to a five-year statute of limitations (Tims v. Black Horse Carriers).
That’s on top of dozens of other important victories we’ve won at the appellate and trial court levels, which include successfully defending BIPA on Constitutional grounds, upholding BIPA’s applicability to healthcare workers and maintaining personal jurisdiction of the Illinois courts over non-resident BIPA defendants.
If you believe your fingerprints, facial geometry or other biometric information was unlawfully collected and want more information on your rights, please contact us