Illinois Supreme Court Rules against the Nonconsensual Collection of Biometric Data

A legal dispute that started in 2014 finally ended late in January when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the theme park company Six Flags cannot collect biometric data from visitors without their consent.

The issue started in 2014 when plaintiff Stacy Rosenbach brought Six Flags to court for collecting her son’s fingerprint without her consent or even knowledge. But an appellate court judged that the collection didn’t cause any harm and consequently ruled against the complaint.

At that point, Rosenbach and her attorney, Philip Bock, still convinced of their case, decided to resort to the Illinois Supreme Court, which eventually sided with Rosenbach in a unanimous ruling.

BIPA

Six Flags’ behavior is clearly illegal in Illinois. According to the 2008 Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), private companies are not allowed to collect biometric data unless they obtain consent in writing. The companies must also inform the person about the type of data that they will be collecting, how it will be stored, used, and shared.

BIPA was created to guarantee individuals’ right to control biometric data that can be used to identify them, such as fingerprints, iris and facial scans.

In response to Friday’s ruling, Senior Staff Counsel Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Illinois issued the following statement:

Commenting on the ruling, Rebecca Glenberg, Senior Staff Counsel of the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said that the “(…) ruling protects Illinoisans’ right to control their own fingerprints, iris scans, and other crucial information about their bodies. This is exactly what the General Assembly had in mind when it enacted BIPA.”

“Your biometric information belongs to you and should not be left to corporate interests who want to collect detailed information about you for advertising and other commercial purposes,” she stated.

Not Everyone Is Happy

On the other hand, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce was displeased with the ruling, saying that it was “(…) disappointed with the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling today in Rosenbach v. Six Flags reversing the Illinois Appellate Court’s ruling.”  Its president and CEO Todd Maisch claimed that he feared that today’s decision “will open the floodgates for future litigation at the expense of Illinois’ commercial health.”