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Nine-Figure Verdicts in Illinois: What is BIPA? and Why Dealers Should Care?

Friday, December 08, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Enacted in 2008, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), went largely unnoticed until a few years ago when a handful of cases sparked a flood of class action litigation over the collection, use, storage, and disclosure of biometric information.

What is BIPA?

BIPA’s purpose is to protect individuals' privacy rights in their biometric information, including retina or iris scans, fingerprint, voiceprint, hand scans, facial geometry, DNA and other unique, identifying biological information.

Employers may collect and store this information only if they:

  1.  Inform the person in writing of what data is being collected or stored (e.g., fingerprint scans);
  2. Inform the person in writing of the specific purpose and length of time for which the data will be collected, stored, and used. (e.g., scan is used to allow employees to clock in and out of work and will be stored for one year or until employment termination); and
  3. Obtain the person's written consent for the information's collection and storage.

Employers may not disclose this information to third parties without the individual's written consent.

A wave of lawsuits followed BIPA's passage. Most were brought by former or current employees whose employers used fingerprints or handprints for timekeeping. For instance, a jury in the first ever BIPA trial (October 2022) found that defendant BNSF Railway Company recklessly or intentionally violated BIPA 45,600 times (once per class member) when it required drivers to register and provide fingerprints each time they used an automated gate system to enter the railyard. The verdict resulted in a $228 million award for the plaintiffs.

Two recent rulings by the Illinois Supreme Court have increased BIPA exposure. First, the Court found a five-year statute of limitations period applies to BIPA claims, rather than a one-year period. Second, the Court found a BIPA claim accrues each time an entity scans or transmits an individual's biometric identifier or information, instead of a single violation when biometric information is first collected.

What Employers Should Do to Limit Liability?

Before employers obtain any biometric data, we recommend they have all employees provide written authorization:

  • Consenting to allow thee employer to collect biometric data used in timekeeping and other reasons related to employment; and
  • Releasing the employer from liability arising from the collection of biometric data.

Chicago Automobile Trade Association
18W200 Butterfield Rd.
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(630) 495-2282


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