Alarm Bells Ring: Consumer Action to Proceed Against Home Security System

On August 3, 2022, the Honorable John C. Coughenour of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington denied the motion to dismiss a consumer class action lawsuit against Ring LLC (“Ring” or “Defendant”), the home security system subsidiary of Amazon.

Plaintiff, Michelle Wise (“Plaintiff”), individually and on behalf of a putative class of all others similarly situated, alleges that Ring violated Sections 15(a) and 15(b) of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) by collecting, storing, and using individuals’ biometric identifiers (“biometrics”) without informed written consent. Under BIPA, private entities like Ring are prohibited from collecting, capturing, or obtaining an individual’s biometric information unless both parties have executed a written release. Additionally, private entities are required to develop a publicly available policy that establishes a retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying biometrics.

Plaintiff specifically alleges that Ring is: (1) collecting face geometry templates from photos and scans of people who interact with Ring’s video doorbell system; (2) processing these images for facial recognition databases, with the ultimate goal of identifying people who can be “tagged” as safe or potentially suspicious visitors; (3) awaiting approval of patent applications for a facial recognition system that would allow law enforcement and homeowners to upload photos to match against faces captured on Ring cameras, thus immediately identifying nonusers; and (4) partnering with law enforcement agencies to semi-automatically identify individuals based on facial recognition. Through these activities, certain individuals are or will be readily identifiable and known to Ring.

Defendant sought to dismiss this action by asserting that Plaintiff failed to state a claim under the BIPA because she does not allege that any biometrics collected, captured, or possessed by Ring could be used to identify her. Defendant further argued that because Ring possesses no names, addresses, or other identifying information that could link facial scans to a specific individual, the alleged face templates are not covered under BIPA. Judge Coughenour disagreed with these arguments, holding instead that Plaintiff has sufficiently pled her claims against Ring and that the litigation shall proceed. In denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Coughenour postulated that the Illinois legislature intended for BIPA to apply when a business has at least some measure of knowing contact and awareness of the people subject to biometric data collection.

In addition to their motion to dismiss, Defendants also moved to strike the class allegations on the grounds that the class is “unknowable.” Judge Coughenour decided this motion was premature as information necessary to support the class allegations lies solely within Defendant’s control. Accordingly, Judge Coughenour ruled Plaintiff will be afforded the discovery necessary to fully develop the class allegations. The proposed class is defined as all Illinois residents who had their biometric identifiers, including scans of their facial geometry, collected, captured, received, or otherwise obtained by Ring. Illinois residents who have purchased a Ring Camera are expressly excluded from the class.

The case will now proceed through discovery. Updates will be posted to this blog as the matter progresses. The caption for this lawsuit is Wise v. Ring LLC, Case No. 2:20-cv-01298, filed in the Western District of Washington. A class has not yet been certified in this action.

The legal team at Miller Shah LLP has significant experience representing consumer class action matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this post, please contact Samantha Kielbania (sjkielbania@millershah.com) or Natalie Finkelman (nfinkelman@millershah.com). The firm can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

Miller Shah LLP is a law firm with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The firm is an active member of the International Advisory Group (IAG Global), which provides clients access to excellent legal and accounting resources around the globe. For more information about the firm, please visit www.millershah.com.

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