Texas AG sues Google over its facial data collection practices

Allegedly, the company is operating in violation of the state's Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act.

The office of Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton announced on Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against Google over the company's alleged years-long practices to capture and use of biometric data from, "millions of Texans without properly obtaining their informed consent to do so." This is allegedly a violation of the state's Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act of 2009.

The AG argues that Google used features in its Photos and Assistant apps, as well as through Nest Hub Max hardware, to scan and store the facial and voice data without first acquiring user consent. Furthermore, Paxton alleges, Google then leveraged that data for commercial gain by using it to train the company's machine learning algorithms.

“Google’s indiscriminate collection of the personal information of Texans, including very sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in the Thursday press release. “I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and security of all Texans.”

This is far from the first time that Paxton, who is up for re-election in November, has targeted Alphabet and its subsidiaries. His office filed a suit in January, "for engaging in false and misleading practices in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices—Consumer Protection Act," and then again less than a week later for, "systematically misleading and deceiving Texas consumers in violation of Texas’ Deceptive Trade Practices Act."

Paxton's office is asking the court for a permanent injunction in the case. This would prohibit Google from "capturing, maintaining, or using in any way the biometric identifiers captured in Texas" or "performing voice or facial recognition in Texas" without the informed consent of the relevant individual as well as invoke a $25,000-per-infraction fine against the search company.

Update (1:21pm ET 10/20/22): Google has issued a statement regarding the lawsuit. José Castañeda, a spokesperson for the company, told Engadget via email, "AG Paxton is once again mischaracterizing our products in another breathless lawsuit. 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.”