Would you trade your personal identity for a steamed bun at a fast food kiosk? Probably not. Illinois and Texas have strict laws regulating businesses that want your biometric identifiers such as facial scans, fingerprints, and voiceprints. Illinois resident Regina Morris recently filed a class action lawsuit against restaurant conglomerate Lettuce Entertain You for illegally taking her facial scan when she purchased food at a Wow Boa kiosk in Chicago. Wow Bao is part of Lettuce.
What is the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act?
In 2008 the Illinois Legislature passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act to protect Illinois consumers. This law gives you the power to stop business from illegally taking your face scan and other precious identifiers.
The Act specifically requires that the businesstaking biometric identifier from a customer at the time of a purchase to do the following:
Inform the customer in writing that the customer’s biometric identifier is being collected
Inform the customer in writing of the specific purpose of the collection of the biometric identifier and length of time that the biometric identifier is being collected, stored, and used
Receive a written release from the customer
Did Wao Bow Put Your Personal Identity at Risk?
Morris may have a good case. She received none of the required written information nor was she asked to sign a release. If you had a similar experience at Wao Bow, you can act to enforce the law by joining with Morris in her lawsuit. You may collect up to $5,000 per occurrence in damages.
The Act also provides that the business:
Not profit from the biometric identifiers
Not disclose the biometric identifiers
Must have a written policy, available to the public, containing the retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying biometric identifiers
The Legislature included these provisions out of concern that the theft of biometric identifiers would increase the risk of identity theft for customers. And, because these identifiers are unique to the individual, they cannot be changed like a social security number. It also noted that the full ramifications of biometric technology are not known.
The risk of theft of your biometric markers is at least as great today as it was when the Legislature passed the Act. Ask Marc Goodman author of the best-selling Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It about future risk. His career includes working as a police officer on the street, as a futurist for the FBI, as an advisor to Interpol.
Goodman believes that the use of biometrics will increase and that you will be more vulnerable to identity theft. “if the future of identity is all about biometrics, then the future of identity theft will involve stealing and compromising biometrics, and thieves and scammers are already hard at work circumventing these systems.”
You Need to Act to Protect Your Personal Identity
In another recent Illinois case, Christopher Howe brought a class action suit against Speedway for illegally scanning his fingerprint. Speedway required all employees allow the scanning, but Howe alleges he was not provided with the company’s written policies about storing and protecting the fingerprints and was not asked to sign a written consent. Similar suits reportedly have been brought against other Illinois employers.
The Illinois Act creates a balance between retailers using biometric identifiers and their customers and employees. The Act does not ban the use of biometrics if the companies provide the required written information and obtain written consent.
Why wouldn’t a company prepare forms to distribute? That is a simple task. Is the company concerned that the forms might prompt you to decide that you did not want to trade your facial scan for a steamed bun? Or cause you to wonder why they wanted your facial scan? Or ask how they protected your scan from theft?
This law was written to protect your personal identity. You need to be proactive, like Morris and Howe. You need to rise up and make companies obey the laws. Do not risk the loss of your personal identity.
If you have been a customer at a Wow Bao kiosk or been employed by Speedway and want to speak with a representative directly and immediately call 844-685-9200 for a free, no obligation case evaluation. Our attorneys have experience with class actions, fighting companies that act illegally, and standing up for consumers. If you join a successful class action case, you could be awarded up to $5,000, reasonable attorney fees, and other damages.
About the Author:
Sergei Lemberg is a lawyer whose practice focuses on consumer law, class actions and personal injury litigation. He has been repeatedly recognized as the “most active consumer attorney” in the country. In 2020, Mr. Lemberg represented Noah Duguid in the United States Supreme Court in the case entitled Duguid v. Facebook. He is the author of Defanging Debt Collectors, a book that teaches consumers how to battle debt collectors and win.