Amazon must face biometric privacy lawsuit over COVID-19 health checks

Amazon's warehouse facility ASD8 is shown in Poway, California
Amazon's warehouse facility DSD8 is shown in Poway, California, U.S., September 28, 2021. Picture taken September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake
  • Former Amazon warehouse employee accused company of violating Illinois privacy law
  • Federal judge in Chicago declined Amazon's motion to dismiss lawsuit

(Reuters) - Inc failed to persuade an Illinois federal judge to toss a lawsuit accusing the company of unlawfully collecting "facial geometry" scans of employees at fulfillment warehouses as part of COVID-19 wellness checks.

U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland in Chicago declined to dismiss the proposed class action on Monday, in which a former employee alleged the e-commerce company collected his facial and other data without proper consent under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

Amazon is among the many businesses that have been sued under the Illinois law, which is recognized as one of the strictest in the U.S. addressing biometric privacy.

Amazon and one of its lawyers from Perkins Coie didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Monday. Nor did a lawyer from plaintiffs' firm Stephan Zouras.

Former warehouse employee William Naughton said devices at Amazon's work sites that allegedly scanned faces and checked temperatures violated sections of the Illinois law that require informed consent to collect biometric data and disclose it to third parties. He said the company also lacked a required publicized data retention plan.

Amazon said in a motion to dismiss it used thermal cameras to measure employees' body temperatures.

Rowland disagreed with Amazon that Naughton failed to allege the company took "active" steps to collect data that qualifies under BIPA.

The judge found the allegation passes muster at this stage, as do claims involving Amazon's "possession" and "collection" of biometric data as defined by the statute.

The case is Naughton v. Inc, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 1:20-cv-06485.

For the plaintiff: Ryan Stephan of Stephan Zouras

For Amazon: Susan Fahringer and Ryan Spear of Perkins Coie

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Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at