Macy’s sued for gathering facial data of customers at stores

Macy's sued for collecting facial images

ILLINOIS (FOX19) - An Illinois court case could put a little extra money in the pockets of Macy’s shoppers.

The department store giant is accused of using facial recognition software to match faces with personal information on social media. More than 6,000 people could be affected.

The class action lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Illinois seeking to make Macy’s expunge, delete and/or remove all information it has collected on its customers.

“I absolutely think this is an invasion of privacy,” FOX19 NOW legal analyst Mike Allen said. “You know, these people go into that store, not with an expectation that their identifying information is going to be captured and used probably for marketing purposes.”

According to court documents, Macy’s used a “search engine for faces” developed by start-up company Clearview AI.

“We found that law enforcement was such a great use case to help solve crimes,” Clearview AI founder Hoan Ton-That told CNN Business, adding around 600 law enforcement agencies are using the technology.

Cincinnati police say they do not use any kind of facial recognition software.

“Facial recognition, in my opinion, has its place in law enforcement,” Allen said. “It’s been a great tool for law enforcement, but I just think you have to be very careful when you get out of that realm of law enforcement and use it for other reasons.”

Illinois has one of the most stringent biometric privacy laws in the nation. Under that law, Macy’s is required to inform subjects in writing that the information or identifier is being collected or stored and for what specific purpose.

It’s a problem that Allen says is only going to get worse: “And one that the legal system is going to have to struggle with, because we’re going to see more and more things like this.”

Under Illinois law, a person may recover $1,000 for each negligent violation of its privacy law or $5,000 for each violation that the court determines is intentional or reckless.

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