Texas AG Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against Google for collecting biometric data. The case was filed in response to a federal appeals court’s upholding of a Texas statute last month, which opens the door for legal action against social media corporations that engage in content moderation.
Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, declared on Thursday that he has sued Google for allegedly “unlawfully” collecting the biometric information of “millions of Texans” without their permission.
“Google’s indiscriminate collection of the personal information of Texans, including very sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated,” Paxton said in a statement.
“I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and security of all Texans.”
In the lawsuit, Paxton said that Google had gathered and archived voice prints and recordings of face geometry from Texans using Google Photos, Google Assistant, and its Nest smart home products without their knowledge or permission since 2015.
“Indeed, all across the state, everyday Texans have become unwitting cash cows being milked by Google for profits,” Paxton, who’d been charged on felony securities fraud charges in 2015, stated in the case (read below).
“Many Texans do not realize that their contributions to the tech giant’s financial growth include offering up for inspection two of the most uniquely personal features any individual has to call their own.”
The “commercialization” of these kind of information, according to Paxton, is “as invasive as it is dangerous” because they “cannot be simply erased or replaced when stolen” unlike passwords and social security numbers.
“Many Texans do not know or understand that Google powers Google Photos by recording and analyzing sensitive biometric information,” Paxton alleged in the lawsuit.
“But, even more striking is the fact that, through the Face Grouping process, Google captures and stores sensitive biometric data about Texan users and non-users alike — and Google stores that data for an unreasonable amount of time.”
Paxton went on to claim that Google used the information to improve its artificial intelligence systems.
“But there is more — Google is also listening,” Paxton claims, claiming that the company’s voice-controlled products were “listening to and analyzing every voice it hears, without regard to whether a speaker has consented to Google’s indiscriminate voice printing.”
The case was filed in response to a federal appeals court’s upholding of a Texas statute last month, which opens the door for legal action against social media corporations that engage in content moderation.
Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, signed House Bill 20 into law last year in an effort to combat “censorship” and the removal of political messages that are thought to be in violation of the terms of service for social media websites.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is renowned for its conservatism, removed an order issued by a lower court that had prohibited the law from coming into force.
“AG Paxton is once again mischaracterizing our products in another breathless lawsuit,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda said in a statement to CNBC.
“For example, Google Photos helps you organize pictures of people, by grouping similar faces, so you can easily find old photos. Of course, this is only visible to you and you can easily turn off this feature if you choose and we do not use photos or videos in Google Photos for advertising purposes.
The same is true for Voice Match and Face Match on Nest Hub Max, which are off-by-default features that give users the option to let Google Assistant recognize their voice or face to show their information. We will set the record straight in court.”
Read the document below: