Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — Facebook sued over facial scans

Associated Press/Matt Rourke

Today is Monday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. 

Follow The Hill’s tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage. 

Facebook captured facial scans of users to boost its business, according to a lawsuit filed by Texas’ attorney general today. The case adds onto a growing pile of legal challenges facing Facebook and its newly formed parent company Meta. 

Let’s jump into the news. 

 

Texas takes on Facebook

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Texas is suing Facebook over allegations that the social media giant violated Texans’ privacy through the company’s previous use of facial recognition technology, according to a complaint filed Monday.  

“Facebook will no longer take advantage of people and their children with the intent to turn a profit at the expense of one’s safety and well-being,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said in a statement. “This is yet another example of Big Tech’s deceitful business practices and it must stop. I will continue to fight for Texans’ privacy and security.” 

The lawsuit alleges Facebook, now under the parent company Meta, captured biometric data of Texans for commercial purposes without their informed consent and failed to destroy collected identifiers within a reasonable time. 

The lawsuit also alleges that Facebook violated the privacy of people who were not even users on the platform by collecting biometric identifiers from photos and videos “innocently uploaded by friends and family who did use Facebook.”  

“There was no way for such non-users to know of or contest this exploitation,” the complaint states.  

The lawsuit was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. A person familiar with the matter told the Journal the lawsuit seeks civil penalties in the hundreds of billions of dollars. 

Read more here.  

REOPENING IS BACK

Microsoft will be reopening its offices in Washington state and California this month, the company announced Monday. 

Offices in both states will move to the final stage of Microsoft’s COVID-19 reopening plan on Feb. 28.  

“Reaching this stage allows us to fully open our facilities to employees, visitors and guests,” Chris Capossela, the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, wrote in a blog post.  

Although the offices will be open, workers will retain flexibility.  

Microsoft employees will have 30 days after the reopening date to make agreements with managers on how often they will plan on telecommuting versus working in person.  

Read more. 

BLOCKFI SETTLES WITH SEC

A cryptocurrency firm will pay $100 million to settle claims it failed to register its crypto lending account product with federal and state regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced Monday. 

In a Monday settlement, BlockFi Lending LLC agreed to pay $100 million split between the SEC and 32 states and end its BlockFi Interest Accounts (BIAs), which allowed cryptocurrency holders to deposit their digital tokens with the company in exchange for interest. 

BlockFi would lend and invest the cryptocurrency to generate interest for the accounts and held roughly $10.4 billion in assets for roughly 570,000 BIA account holders, according to the settlement. 

The SEC charged BlockFi with violating 82-year-old federal rules that require companies that offer securities — including investment contracts — to register those products with the agency.  

Read more here.  

BITS AND PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Online piracy is a scourge on American authors — Congress must intervene  

Lighter click: Surprise your special someone today  

Notable links from around the web: 

Inside Facebook’s African Sweatshop (Time / Billy Perrigo) 

The FCC’s affordable broadband program is starting to make a dent (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky) 

The Right’s Would-Be Kingmaker (The New York Times / Ryan Mac and Lisa Lerer) 

How Roblox ‘Beamers’ Get Rich Stealing from Children (Motherboard / Joseph Cox) 

 

One last thing: QR code causes crash  

The Coinbase Super Bowl commercial that featured a QR code caused the cryptocurrency app to temporarily crash. 

The minutelong Coinbase Super Bowl commercial featured a colorful QR code floating around the screen, mimicking the bouncing DVD logo often seen in the early 2000s. 

Viewers who scanned the code were brought to a link that offered $15 in free bitcoin to anyone who created an account with Coinbase before Feb. 15 and entered participants in a $3 million giveaway. 

The final few seconds of the commercial revealed that the ad was for Coinbase. 

Read more here.  

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Tuesday.

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