Passed in 2008, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) regulates collection of biometric markers such as fingerprints or facial metrics. Since its passage, the Illinois BIPA has been used to restrict technology giants and their use of users’ personal information, particularly photographs. To understand the scale of this, Facebook reported in a 2013 whitepaper that its users have uploaded more than 250 billion photos. It was estimated in 2017 that the total number of digital photos stored in electronic databases was around 5 trillion.
Documenting and categorizing the faces of a significant percentage of the world’s population represents a major opportunity for technology and data companies. Ten years into enforcement and a figurative eternity into the technological evolution of the process, the Illinois BIPA has been an unavoidable feature of the big data landscape. Though potentially impactful cases remain pending (or on appeal), technology companies largely have been unable to convince courts that their facial recognition technologies should escape regulation under BIPA.