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Lawsuit: Target Collects Customer Biometrics Without Consent, Violated Illinois Privacy Law

— April 17, 2024

The class-action lawsuit claims that Target uses facial recognition tools to prevent theft–but records, retains, and analyzes the biometric data of many of its customers.

An Illinois woman has filed a lawsuit against Target, accusing the retail giant of breaking state law by storing and collecting customers’ biometric data through the use of facial recognition technologies.

“Target’s stores in Illinois are outfitted with cameras and advanced video surveillance systems that—unbeknownst to customers—surreptitiously collect, possess, or otherwise obtain Biometric Data,” the lawsuit alleges. “Target does not notify customers of this fact prior to store entry, nor does it obtain consent prior to collecting its customers’ Biometric Data.”

According to USA Today, the lawsuit was filed last month in a Cook County circuit court. In it, attorneys for the woman claim that Target’s surveillance systems collect and aggregate information about certain customers—information including their facial features, as well as fingerprint scans.

This information, lawyers say, is then used to prevent shoplifting and deter other unlawful activities from occurring at Target stores statewide.

However, the complaint suggests that the collection and retention of such sensitive information is in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Under this act, companies must typically obtain a customer’s consent before using their physical characteristics for any commercial purpose.

A security camera. Image via Pixabay. Public domain.

“Target does not notify customers of [the fact that it captures biometric information] prior to store entry, nor does it obtain consent prior to collecting its customers’ Biometric Data,” the lawsuit says, further alleging that Target uses “top of the line” facial recognition software throughout its stores.

Target’s “advanced system of electronic surveillance,” attorneys say, includes the operation of at least 14 investigation centers—and, surprisingly, two forensic laboratories, which “enhance video footage and analyze fingerprints.”

Although the system’s purpose is deterring theft—and aiding in the arrest of shoplifters—it necessarily captures and records the characteristics of customers who are not engaging in criminal activities.

“There are numerous instances of former Target employees detailing its facial recognition system circulation on the internet as well,” the complaint adds, apparently referencing a TikTok page that regularly features consumers and ex-employees sharing concerns about the company’s surveillance systems.

Attorneys say that, aside from invading customers’ privacy, the collection of biometric information also poses unique security risks.

“For example, social security numbers, when compromised, can be changed,” the lawsuit says. “Biometrics, however, are biologically unique to the individual: therefore, once compromised, the individual has no recourse, is at heightened risk for identity theft, and is likely to withdraw from biometric-facilitated transactions.”

The lawsuit seeks $5,000 in compensation for “each and every intentional reckless violation” of the state’s biometrics statue, as well as $1,000 for any violation found to have been committed negligently.

It also requests that the court order the repayment of attorneys fees and legal expenses.


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