Texas attorney general sues Google: 'I will continue to fight Big Tech'

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued Google alleging that the tech giant has "unlawfully captured and used the biometric data of millions of Texans without properly obtaining their informed consent to do so." 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas, on July 11, 2021. Credit: Getty Images

The lawsuit alleges that, in violation of Texan law, Google has "collected biometric data from innumerable Texans and used their faces and their voices to serve Google’s commercial ends." 

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In 2015, Google released a feature called "Face Grouping." The program works by utilizing facial recognition technology to create a database of faces, stored in the cloud, to be utilized by individual's photo apps. When a photo is uploaded to Google apps ‘FaceNet’ scans the faces in the photo and cross-references it with its database to be able to group people together. 

The study indicates that spam is largely defined as “unsolicited email that comes from an entity that the recipient is not already aware of or has no interest in knowing about,” but Google defines it as “any content that is unwanted by the user.”  (Reuters / Reuters)

In his lawsuit, Paxton alleges that this feature violates the rights of Texans who may appear in the background of photos and, thereby, have their biometric data scanned and stored by Google without their consent. 

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"When a Texas mother uploads photos of her daughter’s third birthday party to Google Photos, for example, Google captures the face geometry of every child’s face that can be detected in those photographs. Even more troubling, when the mother uploads video of the birthday party, Google runs facial recognition on every face detected in that video, including the faces of uninvolved bystanders in the park, restaurant, or schoolyard," Paxton said. "To Google, it does not matter that the three-year-olds, the bystanders, and grandma never consented to Google capturing and recording their biometric data."

FILE: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton leaves the U.S. Supreme Court following arguments over a challenge to a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2021. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters Photos)

Attorney General Paxton has made privacy issues a concern of his tenure. His office recently distributed $4.2 million dollars to 42,000 Texans whose personal information was comprised in a 2016 data breach of ride-share company, Uber. This is also not the first time the attorney general has sued Google, launching a lawsuit in 2020 with nine other states to combat Google's anti-competition practices. 

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"Google’s indiscriminate collection of the personal information of Texans, including very sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated," Attorney General Paxton said. "I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and security of all Texans." 

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