Privacy Law

Macy's uses facial recognition software to identify customers on security cameras, lawsuit claims

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A would-be class action lawsuit alleges that the Macy’s department store chain violates Illinois law when it identifies customers recorded on its surveillance cameras by using facial recognition software.

The Aug. 5 lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Illinois, alleges violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act and the state’s consumer fraud law. The biometric privacy law bars some private companies from obtaining scans of facial geometry without written consent.

Macy’s uses software provided by Clearview AI Inc., which scrapes data from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other internet platforms, according to the lawsuit.

The Chicago Tribune, the Cincinnati Enquirer and Bloomberg Law have coverage; an Aug. 5 press release is here.

“Any private citizen can be identified by uploading a photo to the database,” the suit says. “Once identified, the end-user—here Macy’s—then has access to all of the individual’s personal details that Clearview has also obtained.”

The suit says Macy’s is “actively profiting off” the information “through improved security and/or through marketing.”

The suit cites a BuzzFeed News report that said Clearview AI Inc. reportedly provides facial recognition services to more than 200 corporate clients, including Macy’s, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Walmart. Some of the companies used the software on a trial basis, but Macy’s is a paying customer that has completed more than 6,000 searches, the BuzzFeed article said.

The plaintiff is Chicago woman Isela Carmean. The complaint identified the plaintiff as Isela Carmine, but the spelling is incorrect, her lawyer told the Chicago Tribune.

Macy’s refused to comment when contacted by the Chicago Tribune, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.

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