Texas AG sues Google over facial and voice data collection

7 months ago 14

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a news conference after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in President Joe Biden's bid to rescind a Trump-era immigration policy that forced migrants to stay in Mexico to await U.S. hearings on their asylum claims, in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2022. 

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton unveiled a new lawsuit against Google on Thursday, this time alleging the search giant broke the state's biometric data law by failing to get adequate user consent to collect and use voice and face information from millions of Texas consumers.

The complaint underscores the role of individual states in protecting users' information on the internet in the absence of a federal privacy law. An Illinois class action suit against Facebook that settled last year for $650 million was brought under that state's Biometric Information Privacy Act, for example.

The lawsuit echoes a similar case Paxton brought against Facebook parent Meta earlier this year under the same statute, the Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act. Paxton accused both companies in the separate lawsuits of collecting biometric information from users without their informed consent.

In the latest Google complaint, Paxton alleges that beginning in at least 2015, Google collected and stored facial and voice recognition information on users through Google Photos, Google Assistant and its Nest smart-home products without obtaining adequate consent. He further claims Google used the information to improve its artificial intelligence algorithms.

"AG Paxton is once again mischaracterizing our products in another breathless lawsuit," Google spokesperson José Castañeda said in a statement. "For example, Google Photos helps you organize pictures of people, by grouping similar faces, so you can easily find old photos. Of course, this is only visible to you and you can easily turn off this feature if you choose and we do not use photos or videos in Google Photos for advertising purposes. The same is true for Voice Match and Face Match on Nest Hub Max, which are off-by-default features that give users the option to let Google Assistant recognize their voice or face to show their information. We will set the record straight in court."

Google in particular has found itself up against Paxton multiple times now. The Texas attorney general is leading a coalition of states that sued the company on antitrust grounds, alleging it illegally monopolized the online advertising technology market.

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