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State Senator backs off attempt to gut Illinois privacy law

State Senator backs off attempt to gut Illinois privacy law

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On Thursday, Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act was faced with a sudden and abrupt threat, with a new amendment introduced by State Senator Terry Link that would place severe limits on the bill's power. Facebook, Google and Snapchat are all facing lawsuits for violating the act, and the proposal would have stopped those lawsuits in a single stroke.

But according to an Ars Technica report, State Senator Link has now placed the amendment on hold, after the proposal generated significant outcry in the press. It's still possible Link will reintroduce the measure, but the amendment introduced on Thursday, which was attached to a long-delayed property seizure bill, now seems to be off the table. Both the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Privacy Information Center criticized the amendment, with the former group referring to the last-minute amendment as an "undemocratic maneuver."

The Biometric Privacy Information Act has become an unexpected legal hurdle for the new generation of facial recognition systems, which power products like Facebook's photo-tagging system, Google Photos, and Snapchat's smart filters. Plaintiffs claim the companies aren't asking for users' consent before enrolling them in those systems. The Illinois law doesn't expressly forbid making facial scans, instead requiring explicit consent for collection of biometric data more broadly. As Alvaro Bedoya of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law described it, "If you run a bar, the law doesn’t prevent you from picking up my used pint glass, but it prevents you from pulling my DNA off it."