Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against Google over the company’s alleged practices for years to capture and use the biometric data of “millions of Texans without properly obtaining their informed consent to do so”. This would be a violation of the Capture or Use of State Biometric Identifier Act of 2009.
The AG argues that Google used features in its Photos and Assistant apps, as well as through Nest Hub Max hardware, to scan and store facial and voice data without first obtaining user consent. Additionally, Paxton alleges that Google then exploited this data for commercial gain by using it to train the company’s machine learning algorithms.
“Google’s indiscriminate collection of personal information from Texans, including highly sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in Thursday’s press release. “I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and safety of all Texans.”
This is far from the first time that Paxton, who is up for re-election in November, has targeted Alphabet and its affiliates. His office filed a lawsuit in January, “for engaging in false and deceptive practices in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices—Consumer Protection Act,” then again less than a week later for “systematically deceiving and mislead Texas consumers in violation of Texas’ Deceptive Marketing Practices Act.”
Paxton’s office asks the court for a permanent injunction in the case. This would prohibit Google from “capturing, storing, or otherwise using biometric identifiers captured in Texas” or “performing voice or facial recognition in Texas” without the informed consent of the data subject, as well as from invoke a fine of $25,000 per violation. fine against the research company.
Update (1:21 PM ET 10/20/22): Google released a statement regarding the lawsuit. Company spokesman José Castañeda told Engadget via email: “AG Paxton is once again misrepresenting our products in another gasping lawsuit. For example, Google Photos helps you organize photos of people, by grouping similar faces together, so you can easily find old photos. Of course, this is only visible to you and you can easily turn this feature off if you wish and we don’t use photos or videos in Google Photos for advertising purposes. The same goes for Voice Match and Face Match on Nest Hub Max, which are features disabled by default that give users the option to let Google Assistant recognize their voice or face to display their information. set the record straight in court.