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Illinois Supreme Court Asked To Limit Lawsuits Over Biometric Privacy Violations

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The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday heard its first-ever case on Illinois’ tough biometric privacy law, which imposes restrictions on the collection of things like retina scans and fingerprints.

At issue is whether people can sue just for having their information collected.

The story begins with an eighth-grade trip to Six Flags Great America.

In order to get a season pass to the amusement park, 14-year-old Alexander Rosenbach had his thumbprint scanned.

Family lawyer Phillip Bock argues that under Illinois’ biometric privacy law, that’s enough to sustain a lawsuit.

“You have a property right in your own personal biometrics,” Bock told the justices during oral arguments on Tuesday. “These things have value. Taking them without consent is a type of theft — it’s a type of taking of property.”

The plaintiffs say there are no fines or criminal penalties for violating the law — and filing lawsuits is the only way to enforce it.

But Six Flags says Rosenbach wasn’t really wronged just by having his thumbprint scanned. It says the courts should only allow lawsuits from people who’ve been “aggrieved” by a violation.

A lower court agreed with that interpretation, but privacy-focused interest groups, like the ACLU, say that would “gut” the law and leave Illinoisans with no way to enforce their biometric privacy rights.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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