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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has just granted Facebook a brief reprieve from an "embarrassing" upcoming class action trial where they are accused of illegally harvesting biometric "faceprint" data. The appellate court did so by granting a stay of the proceedings pending resolution of an appeal of the class certification.
The case involves Facebook's alleged violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. And, according to Facebook's recent filings, it fought hard to get around the district court judge's order that the social media company contact all affected class members via Facebook. The social media giant claims that doing so would cause irreparable reputational damage and embarrassment.
While, for the public, the Ninth Circuit stay doesn't mean much at this point beyond just a delay to ensure that class cert was proper, for Facebook, it means they won't have to face the embarrassment of notifying the class members in the lawsuit via their own platform, at least not yet. Which is a really big deal for them apparently.
Though the company may be bigger than ever, it seems the organization is aware that using Facebook to notify users of the company's alleged mistakes will just be fodder for its own users to make fun of the organization, and its management. However, there's a serious question of fact as to whether Facebook's reputation can be damaged any further at this point.
Unfortunately for Facebook, that issue isn't one for the appellate court to decide at this stage. Surprisingly though, merely hours after the district court ruled that Facebook must face that embarrassing class notification scenario by May 31, the Ninth Circuit issued the stay.
If Facebook successfully appeals the class certification, notifying class members could be a moot point. Alternatively, if Facebook loses the appeal, settling the matter before trial might not be able to save it from being forced to notify its users through its own platform.
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