Home improvement retailers Home Depot and Lowe’s have become the latest big companies to get swiped by class action lawsuits under Illinois’ biometrics privacy law, as a group of plaintiffs have sought to extend the reach of the law’s potentially big financial awards to those stores’ anti-theft surveillance systems.
On Sept. 4, a group of plaintiffs simultaneously filed virtually identical class action complaints in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago against Lowe’s and in federal court in Atlanta against Home Depot, accusing the retailers of violating the Illinois state law by “surreptitiously” scanning customers’ faces as they moved about the chains’ stores in Illinois.
The retailers, the plaintiffs said, have “augmented (their) in-store security cameras with software that track individuals’ movements throughout the store using a unique scan of face geometry,” the lawsuit said. “Put simply, Defendants surreptitiously attempt to collect the faceprint of every person who appears in front of one of their facial-recognition cameras.”
According to the lawsuits, Home Depot and Lowe’s have consistently declined to publicly discuss their systems. However, the lawsuits note the systems are designed as a “loss-prevention measure” to combat shoplifting and theft, as they can “track shoppers across multiple stores and identify ‘suspicious’ shopping activity.”
However, the lawsuits claim the “systemic and covert” practice constitutes “privacy intrusion” and violates the Illinois Biometrics Information Privacy Act, because Home Depot and Lowe’s do not collect express authorization for the facial scans from every customer entering their Illinois stores.
The lawsuit also claims Home Depot and Lowe’s have shared the facial scan information of its customers with others. The complaint does not assert who those others may be, naming only “John Doe” as a co-defendant.