• Business
    The Wrap

    Facebook Could Face $500 Billion in Fines For Illegally Collecting Biometric Data Through Instagram

    Facebook-owned Instagram was sued Monday for illegally collecting, storing and distributing the facial recognition data of its users and could face up to $500 billion in fines.A class action lawsuit filed in San Mateo Superior Court by Illinois resident Kelly Whalen on Aug. 10 alleges that Facebook and Instagram are routinely harvesting and sharing its users’ biometric data without informing them or asking for consent to collect it.The lawsuit requests Facebook pay every member of the class $5,000 for each intentional violation of the Illinois BIPA act, which prohibits misuse of biometric data, or statutory damages of $1,000 for every negligent violation of the law — Business Insider estimated that could total up to $500 billion in fines given that at least 100 million Instagram users could be included in the class.Facebook recently paid $650 million in July to settle a similar case about its misuse of facial recognition data.“This suit is baseless. Instagram doesn’t use Face Recognition technology,” Facebook spokesperson Stephanie Otway told TheWrap in an email.Whalen’s class includes any Illinois resident who has had their biometric identifiers or facial geometry scans at all obtained by Facebook through photos uploaded to its Instagram app. The plaintiff is represented by Chicago-based law firm Carlson Lynch, which did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s requests for comment.Also Read: Olivia Munn in Final Talks for On and Off-Camera Deal With the Relaunching G4 Network (Exclusive)The lawsuit reports Facebook began using facial recognition technology in 2010 and started using it on Instagram after it bought the San Francisco-based photo sharing network in 2012. It essentially uses the tech to scan photos of faces uploaded to the Instagram app to collect a profile of unique facial recognition and other biological data for specific users.“Facebook is actively collecting, storing, disclosing, profiting from, and otherwise using the biometric information of its reportedly more than 100 million Instagram users without any written notice or informed written consent, including millions of Illinois residents,” the lawsuit reads.The practice is problematic in part because it doesn’t allow users to opt-out of data collection — “Indeed, Instagram users are not even given an opportunity to provide a written release because Facebook automatically processes content and shares it across its platforms,” the filing said.Also Read: Bon Appétit Video Host Carla Lalli Music Quits Amid Mass Exodus Over Diversity and Equality“Even if a user does not have facial recognition activated on their personal account, their photo may still be scanned, collected, and entered into Facebook’s database if it matches with a user’s data who does have the facial recognition setting activated,” the lawsuit notes. “This further means that one can never truly “opt out” because Facebook must capture and compare the biometrics of a face before learning if that face in fact matches with faces of users who have their facial recognition setting turned on or off.”The filing said that Instagram reported 118 million users in the United States last year — and points out that Whalen and other defendants (and most Instagram users) are unable to know which third parties Instagram allowed to view their facial recognition data or for what purpose.Instagram users whose data has been collected by Facebook “have no recourse for the fact that their biologically unique information has been compromised,” the lawsuit states.Pamela Chelin contributed to this reportRead original story Facebook Could Face $500 Billion in Fines For Illegally Collecting Biometric Data Through Instagram At TheWrap

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  • Business
    Bloomberg

    China Has Another Reason to Wear Face Masks

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- If residents of China’s steel belt want to know whether to strap on face masks and avoid outdoor exercise, they could do worse than look to the iron ore price.That’s because the spread between two varieties of rust often works as a proxy for the amount of choking particulates spewed out by the country’s steel mills. Right now, the narrowing of the differential to its tightest in more than three years is flashing a pollution warning signal.Unprocessed iron ore is sold in two main sizes. Lump ore is a pebbly mixture that can be fed directly into blast furnaces, and in China must be imported from overseas. Typically it commands a steep premium over fines, a more powdery product that’s easier to come by and must be processed with coke and limestone in sinter plants before it can be used.Those sinter plants are where the vast majority of dust is produced in the steelmaking process, so when environmental restrictions are tight and rigidly enforced, mill owners will use more lump ore and the lump premium rises. At the moment, the opposite is the case: At just 5.5 cents a metric ton, the premium has narrowed by about 80% since the start of March to levels last seen in 2017. Enforced shutdowns are often imposed in China’s steel belt when pollution gets bad, but they’re widely flouted, especially when profits are good and the government is prioritizing heavy industrial stimulus. With those conditions in place, there’s little reason for mills to buy more lump.After a coronavirus-induced lull earlier in the year, the country’s steel industry is churning out metal at record rates to get the economy off its sick bed. Many businesses are still reeling, with first-half fixed-asset investment in the dominant manufacturing sector falling 12% from 2019, and wholesaling and retailing down 31%. Yet steel-intensive engineering sectors are surging. Spending on new power generation and utilities was up 18% from last year. Even the immense real estate sector, which accounts for about a quarter of all Chinese fixed-asset investment, increased 0.6% through June.That has translated to buoyant conditions for steel mills. In May alone, a record 92 million tons was produced, more than the U.S. steel industry has made in any year since 2007. Despite a price surge for benchmark iron ore that last week prompted the Dalian Commodities Exchange to warn investors about price volatility and a stockpile of construction rebar that’s running at about twice average seasonal levels, prices are at their best in 12 months and blast furnaces are making good money.The pandemic-induced weakness in the steel sector outside China is also making it more attractive to pollute. Coking coal, a crucial ingredient in sinter feed, is at some of its lowest levels in years thanks to sluggish demand from India, Japan and South Korea. In recent years it’s typically sold for two or three times the price of iron ore. For the first time since 2014, however, the two commodities are now touching parity. So far there’s little sign that Beijing is seeing the pickup in particulate concentrations that typically accompanies a narrowing in the lump premium. That may be largely due to prevailing wind directions keeping pollution locked up in areas of Hebei and Shandong provinces where steelmaking is concentrated.Over the coming months, steel production is likely to be running full tilt. China’s summer rains and floods are receding, giving construction workers a narrow window of opportunity to get building until October rolls around and winter weather brings more severe, and strictly enforced, steel production curbs — not to mention a possible revival of coronavirus infections.Pollution has long dogged China’s industrialization, responsible for 1.1 million premature deaths in 2015 alone. Better air quality since then has been a key priority for Beijing, suggesting that quality of life might finally take precedence over growth at all costs.Chinese politicians have taken pride in the way they’ve managed to largely suppress Covid-19 while getting the economy moving again — but if the price of kick-starting economic growth is a renewed burden of pollution-related fatalities, it’s going to be a distinctly Pyrrhic victory.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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  • Business
    Autoweek

    15 Cars You Can Buy from Hertz for $15,000 or Less

    Hertz is selling almost 200,000 cars in bankruptcy, and it doesn't take much money to land in an almost new car.From Autoweek

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