The Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008, known as BIPA, was developed to protect individual privacy in the Internet Age, but some business groups say the law is not working, prompting an effort to revamp it.
Since 2019, 1,076 lawsuits citing BIPA have been filed in Illinois, Kearicher said, against companies like the Salvation Army and St. Anthony’s Hospital, resulting from timekeeping systems that use a fingerprint scan.
Proponents of Bill 559 want some major changes that would protect businesses more.
Clark Kaericher, Illinois Chamber of Commerce vice president, says current BIPA law is from the dinosaur era of tech laws.
“It was passed two months after the introduction of iPhone 1 and two full years before the introduction of the iPad – things that we certainly now can’t remember living without,” he said.
BIPA lay mainly dormant until a state Supreme Court ruling in 2019 which said a plaintiff in a BIPA case didn’t need to prove harm to get damages. This violates a touchstone of American jurisprudence, according to Kaericher.
“They use logic equivalent to the ‘you have black ice on your parking lot or on your driveway at your house and I could’ve fallen – I didn’t fall, but I could’ve fallen, and therefore I’m going to sue you,’” he said.
This ruling prompted the flurry of lawsuits against Illinois businesses. Other businesses, including Facebook, also got hit with lawsuits.
As it stands, this bill discourages businesses and new tech development, Kaericher said.
“There’s a real innovation stifling aspect to our biometrics laws,” he said. “Companies don’t want to roll out products here in Illinois because they’re scared of BIPA.”
One of the key points that Bill 559 will change is it will require plaintiffs to have suffered actual harm in order to recover damages.
“And that in cases of negligence or where companies didn’t know any better, they have a right to cure, or in layman’s terms, the ability to fix the violation within 30 days,” Kaericher said.
Opponents of the revamp claim it will basically make the old law useless, and many states look to Illinois’ BIPA law as a model.
Kaericher said many states do look at Illinois’ BIPA laws as a potential blueprint, but after seeing it up close they “run in horror.”
House Bill 559 has passed a state House judiciary committee.
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