You may never have heard of it or even been harmed, but chances are good if you live in Illinois that you are a plaintiff in one of hundreds of class action lawsuits it has spawned.
It’s called BIPA, Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. It regulates collection and storage of biometric information, including fingerprints and facial recognition data. But unlike the two other states with similar laws, Illinois lets individuals sue and they need not show actual damages.
For plaintiffs’ lawyers, that’s pouring blood into shark infested waters. Hundreds of BIPA class action lawsuits have now been filed in Illinois against employers in particular, according to the Cook County Record. Adding to the frenzy, Facebook recently announced a $500 million settlement for alleged misuse of its facial recognition technology under BIPA. Last week, a BIPA class action lawsuit was filed against Google, too, though in a California court. According to the Cook County Record, from Jan. 21 to Feb. 3 alone, 11 new BIPA-related class action lawsuits were filed in Cook County Circuit Court against a range of companies, including:
- Senior housing management company Atria;
- Hartgrove Hospital in Chicago;
- T-Mobile store operator Wireless Vision;
- Water management solutions manufacturer Prinsco;
- Menasha Packaging Company;
- Foodservice provider Compass Group USA;
- Salad kit packer and distributor Fresh Express;
- Norfolk Southern Railway; and
- Pharmaceutical packaging company Nosco.
Cook, Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois are labelled “judicial hellholes” by the American Tort Reform Association. BIPA’s “no-injury class action lawsuits” have contributed to that status, as explained in Biometric Update.
Solutions are the biggest cause of problems, says the adage. The Illinois General Assembly proved it with its response to biometric and internet privacy concerns. BIPA became law in 2008 after being introduced by Senator Terry Link (D-Waukegan), who later allegedly wired up to help the feds in exchange for leniency on his own problems.
And there’s this from the American Tort Reform Association:
Cook County Circuit Courts alone collect over $111 million annually in filing fees and other revenue, more than all other Illinois counties combined. Though litigation abuse clearly hurts the area’s business climate, it seems that an ingrained dependence on litigation industry-derived revenues has overwhelmed common sense.
UPDATE: The A.P. now has a good story on latest developments including the fight over whether to amend BIPA. It’s one of many national stories on the topic critical of the Illinois law, yet Springfield is oblivious.