BIPA And Article III Standing: Where Are We Now?

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) continues to attract litigation, and the battle continues as to what allegations of a BIPA violation may proceed in the federal courts.   As you will recall, BIPA was enacted in 2008 to protect the privacy of personal biometric data.  Section 15(a) of BIPA requires a company to publicly post a general notice about the company’s biometric data retention periods.  740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 14/15(a). Section 15(b) of BIPA requires a company to provide specific notice and obtain consent from the particular person whose biometric information is collected.  Id. at 14/15(b).  BIPA also bans the sale or trade of personal biometric information for profit.  Id. at 14/15(c).  Notably, BIPA provides for a private right of action for anyone “aggrieved by a violation” of the statute.  Id. at 14/20.

Under the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling in Rosenbach, an alleged statutory violation of BIPA is sufficient to bring a BIPA claim in the state courts. 129 N.E.3d 1197, 1207 (Ill. 2019).   However, the standard is different for litigating BIPA claims in federal court.  The U.S. Supreme Court in Spokeo clarified that Article III standing requires more than just a “bare procedural violation.” 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1549 (2016).  So, whether a BIPA case will be able to proceed in federal court depends on the allegations in the complaint.  Here is what the Seventh Circuit has had to say about Article III standing in the context of BIPA litigations:

Even with the Seventh Circuit’s recent decisions, it is still not crystal-clear what kinds of BIPA claims can proceed in federal court.  According to Bryant, a claim under section 15(b) inherently raises a concrete and particularized harm, so Article III standing is established for such claims.  Reviewing Bryant and Fox, standing for purposes of a section 15(a) claim depends on the specific allegations pled.  If the complaint fails to tie a particularized, personal harm to the alleged violation of 15(a)—but instead pleads a procedural violation only—the plaintiff will not be able to proceed in federal court.  Finally, Thornley’s analysis of section 15(c) is consistent with Bryant’s and Fox’s analyses of section 15(a): plaintiffs will lack Article III standing when the complaint alleges procedural violations only.

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National Law Review, Volumess XI, Number 63