CHICAGO – A case that began when a minor child purchased a season pass to Six Flags Great America is threatening to undermine Illinois’ imperative biometric data privacy law, according a coalition of organizations in an amicus brief filed with the Illinois Supreme Court. The case before the Court, Rosenbach v. Six Flags, involves a question about the reach of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), adopted in 2008. 

BIPA provides residents of Illinois important privacy protections, prohibiting corporations from collecting Illinois residents’ biometric information without receiving their informed consent. Illinois’ biometric statute is considered a leader among consumer privacy laws, protecting Illinois residents and providing them with recourse when companies unlawfully collect their biometric information.

In Rosenbach, Six Flags is alleged to have collected biometric data from the plaintiff’s son when he purchased a season pass to Great America.  Six Flags did not give notice or obtain consent as required by BIPA. The mother sued in Lake County Circuit Court on behalf of her son and others similarly situated. But an Appellate Court held that the plaintiff was not “aggrieved,” because she and her son alleged only a “technical violation” of BIPA and did not allege any “actual harm.”

The privacy groups and a group of bipartisan current and former members of the Illinois House and Senate asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appellate court and restore the full power of BIPA.

“Illinois’ biometric law promotes the responsible use of biometric technology, finding that elusive balance between public safety and our right to privacy,” observed State Representative Ann Williams of Chicago who was joined by more than 20 current and former legislators – from both sides of the aisle – asking the Court to ensure that companies can be held accountable for BIPA violations, as the General Assembly intended. 

“That was the intent of the legislation - and that is what we are fighting to preserve,” Williams added. 

“Left unchecked, the appellate court’s decision would seriously undermine the strength of BIPA,” said Rebecca Glenberg, senior staff counsel for the ACLU of Illinois.  “This law already has been attacked by corporate interests who want to collect massive amounts of data about individuals.  We need to resist this effort to undermine the law.” 

"Biometric information is uniquely sensitive. You can cancel your credit card but you cannot cancel your face, " said Abraham Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG Education Fund. "It's critical that consumers are able to enforce Illinois' strongest-in-the-nation biometric privacy law."

The privacy group’s amicus brief was signed by the following organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Illinois, the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Illinois PIRG Education Fund, Inc. and Lucy Parsons Labs.

The privacy groups’ brief is available here.  The legislators’ brief is available here.