KEY POINTS

  • Facebook is facing a third lawsuit over alleged covert use of cameras to record facial recognition data of its users
  • Facebook was sued last month over similar accusations, and had a settlement rejected by a judge the month prior
  • Facebook says the notification of camera use was an error that has been fixed, and cameras were never accessed

Facebook is being sued for alleged use of inactive phone cameras to surveil users. The suit, filed in California by a New Jersey user, is the third this summer and accused Instagram of accessing cameras without the knowledge of users to collect information. 

Brittany Conditi filed suit Thursday over alleged use of facial recognition technology, saying the company was recording how users reacted to ads to better targeted advertisements. Facebook has said while notifications that Instagram was using the camera did pop up, they were due to a bug, and the camera was not accessed. It said the error had been fixed.

smartphone camera More smartphones are debuting with more camera lenses this year. Photo: Getty Images/Josep Lago

This is just the latest in a procession of lawsuits over biometric data collection allegations against Facebook. In August, a suit was filed in Redwood City, California, over the alleged collection, storage, and profit from facial recognition data of more than 100 million Instagram users.

In July, Facebook attempted to settle a similar lawsuit by Illinois residents before it went to trial in federal court in San Francisco for $550 million, but U.S. District Judge James Donato balked.

“It's $550 million. That's a lot. But the question is, is it really a lot? They are taking what is effectively a 98.75% discount off of the amount that the Illinois Legislature said might be due in this case if you proved up your case," Donato said in rejecting the deal in June.

NPR reported ongoing litigation is becoming a substantial financial burden for Facebook, which could be fined $47 billion in the Illinois case, a blow even for a company worth $680 billion. Facebooks’ lawyers said, however, an award that size likely would be reduced by appellate courts.

Facebook since has received preliminary appoval of a $650 million settlement in the case. A hearing is set for January.

Facebook last year paid a $5 billion fine to the Federal Trade Commission for violating an order alleging the social media giant had deceived users about the ability to control private information.