What is BIPA?

The Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) enacted in Illinois oversees the use of biometric information. BIPA is one of the strongest biometric laws to assure the confidentiality of personal data to minimize law violations. It applies to private entities and remains the foundation for many high-profile lawsuits through companies like Facebook and Google.

Biometric information consists of various components such as fingerprints, facial recognition, and sensitive information that lead to many privacy concerns. Therefore, one central feature of BIPA is obtaining consent and informing individuals regarding their data’s whereabouts. Recently, a case violation under BIPA has led to a major lawsuit.

BNSF Railway Suit

BNSF Railway is one of the largest freight railroad networks formed due to various railways merging to become one. In 2014, a plaintiff sued the company for allegedly violating the BIPA act by having individuals use their fingerprints to get through an automated gate system but not obtaining consent. The plaintiff claims that he never gave written permission to collect his fingerprints, nor was he informed of how long BNSF would store his data- a requirement under section 15(b).

In 2022, a judge found that a series of individuals had been in a similar situation. BNSF claims that the information gathered was by Remprex, a third party that installed and managed the automated gate systems at each facility. Even with the various claims and motions that BNSF filed from the defendant’s side, the jury found that BNSF’s BIPA violations were reckless and intentional, which resulted in a $228 million judgment.

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