Illinois’ biometric privacy law strengthened by latest high court ruling
By HANNAH MEISEL
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – People who’ve been subject to fingerprinting, face or retinal scans as either employees or customers of Illinois companies have five years to file lawsuits if they believe the business violated a stringent state privacy law, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled this week.
It’s the latest in a handful of cases that have reached Illinois’ high court in recent years, all refining the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. Also known as BIPA, the first-of-its-kind law has, since 2008, made Illinois the only state that grants a private right of action to sue over the improper collection and mishandling of biometric data.
The justices on Thursday ruled BIPA has an unequivocal five-year statute of limitations on all claims under the law – not a one-year window as employers and business groups had hoped for.
In this case, logistics company Black Horse Carriers Inc., which has since been acquired by trucking giant Penske, faced a class action lawsuit. A former employee initiated the suit, alleging the company violated BIPA by requiring time clock fingerprint authentication without maintaining a publicly available policy on how the company would treat employees’ biometric data.
The suit also claimed Black Horse failed to provide notice to employees that the timeclock was collecting their fingerprints, and didn’t explicitly get employees’ consent. The company argued the court should’ve applied the one-year statute of limitations under Illinois’ Right of Publicity Act. But the court unanimously disagreed.
In issuing a blanket five-year statute of limitations for all BIPA claims, the 5-0 majority of the court emphasized that “the full ramifications of the harms associated with biometric technology is unknown.” Without the law, the court wrote, individuals whose biometric data was improperly collected or disseminated might never even know it – at least until they felt the consequences.
“We find that a longer limitations period would comport with the public welfare and safety aims of the General Assembly by allowing an aggrieved party sufficient time to discover the violation and take action,” the court ruled.
Danielle Kays, an attorney with Chicago-based firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP with experience in cases involving biometric information, said employers like her clients were already working under the assumption that a five-year statute of limitations was likely to prevail. But this week’s ruling, she said, provides more clarity in a law that’s still taking shape in a sea of legal challenges.
Nearly 1.5 million Illinoisans were eligible for their share of a $650 million class action settlement with Facebook under BIPA in 2020, a five-year case that was one of the first among thousands of suits filed under the law, with the trend really taking off around 2018, Kays said.
She said she advises clients to stay on top of compliance that may evolve with each major decision, including this week’s, which solidifies a five-year statute of limitations.
“Many cases have been stayed waiting for those decisions,” Kays said. “So there are many factual and legal defenses that have not been litigated still.”
Thursday’s opinion was another legal victory for proponents of BIPA – especially a handful of law firms specializing in filing class action cases over biometric data. Those attorneys have made the same basic argument in thousands of lawsuits over the last several years: if someone’s identity is stolen, they can obtain a new social security number. But if their biometric data is stolen, it’s impossible to get a new fingerprint or face.
So far, Illinois’ high court has agreed – as did a federal jury in October, granting $228 million in damages in a class action BIPA case against BNSF Railways, the first jury test of the law.
The Black Horse Carriers case was argued in front of the court in September, but Kays and other attorneys involved in BIPA litigation are waiting on an even more consequential decision in a class action suit against fast food chain White Castle.
In that case, the court is being asked to decide whether each time an employee clocks in and out using his or her fingerprint constitutes a separate violation of BIPA. Such a ruling could prove extremely costly to employers, as damages under the law start at $1,000 for negligent violations and $5,000 for violations deemed “reckless.”
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide, as well as hundreds of radio and TV stations. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
Local Three-Year-Old Wins Bike in Great Bike Giveaway
Spread the loveBy Karen Haave Dixie Barclay is a sunny, happy three-year-old, who likes to sing and dance, and she’s always smiling. Born with Spina Bifida, she has been through a lot in her short life, including enduring 12 surgeries, and uses a wheelchair to get around. Her mom, Jessica, says she is very outgoing…
Haas to Hold Traveling Office Hours in Park Forest, Monee
Spread the loveIn an effort to ensure every 79th District community has access to her office, House Assistant Minority Leader Jackie Haas will continue hosting satellite office hours in the northern part of her district in Monee, in addition to monthly traveling office hours in Park Forest. While Leader Haas’ main district office is in…
Monee Village Board Approves Pay Hikes
Spread the loveBy Karen Haave The Monee Board of Trustees has approved three percent pay raises for village staff, effective May 1. The building services manager, park director, Department of Public Works superintendent, human resources director, front office supervisor, DPW executive assistant, building services supervisor, IT manager, and deputy chief of police all will get…
Fire Buddies Spreads Cheer
Spread the loveBy Karen Haave In December 2016, a young child battling cancer fell ill with a high fever. A group of Oak Forest Firefighters answered the 911 call, transporting the child to the hospital for life-saving treatment. The experience was heartbreaking for them, and inspired them to want to do more. With support from…
French Heritage Museum Season Re-Opening April 1
Spread the loveJoin us on Saturday, April 1, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., for this season’s re-opening of the French Heritage Museum at the Stone Barn, 165 N. Indiana Avenue, Kankakee! From 10 a.m. to noon, patrons can purchase a cup of coffee, from Brew Head Espresso, to enjoy while browsing the museum. Join…
County Pop-Up Clinic Vaccinates 250+ Dogs and Cats
Spread the loveFree clinic provided vaccines, microchips, and food for Will County pets. Will County hosted a pop-up pet clinic at the County Office Building on March 11, which vaccinated and microchipped more than 250 local cats and dogs. The event was hosted by Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, the K9…
Genealogical Society Presents ‘They Lived Where?’ at KPL
Spread the loveThe Kankakee Valley Genealogical Society will host Laura Kovarik at its next meeting, Saturday, April 1, at 10:30 a.m., at the Kankakee Public Library, 201 E. Merchant Street. Kovarik will present the program “They Lived Where? Tips for Researching Locations.” Location research shows the details surrounding a family, giving context and understanding to…
Answering Questions Concerning Mental Health Sales Tax on Ballot
Spread the loveKankakee County residents have an opportunity to vote on a sales tax referendum at the April 4 General Election. Voters will decide if they are willing to adopt a ¼ cent sales tax to create local, long-term solutions to address chronic gaps in the mental health system of care. Several objections and questions…
Letter to Ed.: Deutsche
Spread the loveDear Editor: It is my honor to recommend Jeanine Galbraith for re-election as the District 4 CM201-U School Board member. Jeanine has lived in Crete for 31 years with her husband, Bill, of 37 years. Mrs. Galbraith is retired from the Chicago Tribune after 40 years of service. Jeanine is an active member…
Letter to Ed.: Patton
Spread the loveDear Editor: I had the privilege of serving as the interim superintendent in Crete-Monee District 201U on two occasions for a year. On both occasions, Mrs. Jeanine Galbraith served on the board of education, and I had numerous to interact with her and witness her commitment to the district and the students it…
Beecher School Board Candidate: Todd Gregory
Spread the loveI decided to go to my first School board meeting during covid when I thought the decision were hurting the kids. I thought I could have conversation and rationally explain, and they would make changes. But the Government system was in place and the following months and years things did not get better.…
School Board Approves Cameras at High School
Spread the loveBy Andrea Arens The March 13 board meeting included the approval of an expense parents will appreciate: security cameras. In the past few years, there have been several shooting threats at Peotone High School, and the high school was not equipped with cameras. A grandparent attended last month’s board meeting to plead the…
Spread the lovePeotone Park District is hosting a free Easter Egg Hunt at Peotone Community Park on Saturday April 1st at 10 a.m. Participants need to bring their own egg receptacle. Free pictures with the Easter Bunny. Find the golden egg and win a prize. The Greater Peotone Clergy Association will host Ecumenical Stations of…
Manteno/Bourbonnais Easter Egg Dashes
Spread the loveJoin the Village of Manteno for its annual Easter Egg Dash at Heritage Park, 500 W. Cook Street. Take pictures with the bunny starting at 10 a.m., with the Dash beginning at 11 a.m. There will be three age zones, including: Pre-K and younger, first and second grades, plus third and fourth grades.…
Beecher Community Library News
Spread the loveCall the library at 708-946-9090 for programs that require registration. The library will be closed for Easter on Friday, April 7. Youth Services A new umbrella take-and-make craft is available for pick up in April. Pick up any time. March 30, 31, and April 6, at 10 a.m., Beecher Bookworm Buddies: Enjoy stories,…