Biometrics case against Amazon can proceed

A federal district court has refused to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit filed against Inc. by a former employee who contends the company violated Illinois’ biometric law.

William Naughton, who worked for two months in 2020 as a “picker” at an Amazon fulfillment center in Joliet, Illinois, charges the company violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act by taking scans of his facial geometry without his consent and disclosing the data to other parties, according to Monday’s ruling by the U.S. District Court in Chicago in William Naughton v., Inc. and LLC.

The case, which was originally called Michael Jerinic v. Amazon.Com Inc. and Amazon Com LLC, was first filed in state court, then transferred to the U.S. District Court.

Mr. Naughton alleges in his lawsuit that Amazon never informed him it was collecting his biometric data; never developed any publicly available retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying the biometric data; and never obtained Mr. Naughton’s consent for any disclosure or dissemination of his biometric data to third parties, according to the ruling.

“Amazon attacks the sufficiency of Naughton’s allegations on a variety of grounds, but ultimately none are persuasive,” the ruling said.

Among Amazon’s arguments was that Mr. Naughton does not plausibly allege the company “purposely collected any data that could qualify as biometric data,” the ruling said.

The court disagreed. “By asserting Amazon itself implemented the facial scans and required workers to submit to these scans as a condition of work, Naughton plausibly alleges Amazon took an ‘active step’ in collecting his biometric data,” the court said in refusing to dismiss the case.

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.

In December, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said the Illinois Supreme Court should decide whether violations under the BIPA occur each time an illegal biometric scan is performed, in a case that will determine businesses’ potential liability under the law.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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