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Monroy v. Shutterfly, Inc.

United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

September 15, 2017, Decided; September 15, 2017, Filed

Case No. 16 C 10984



Alejandro Monroy ("Monroy") brings this putative class action alleging that defendant Shutterfly, Inc. ("Shutterfly") violated Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 14/1 et seq. Shutterfly has moved to dismiss the complaint on several grounds. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is denied.


Shutterfly is the operator of websites [*2]  that allow users to upload, organize, and share digital photographs. When a user uploads a photo, Shutterfly's facial recognition software scans the image, locates each of the faces in the image, and extracts a highly detailed "map" or "template" for each face based on its unique points and contours. According to the complaint, a person can be uniquely identified by his face geometry in the same way that he can be identified by his fingerprints. Compl. ¶ 5.

The complaint further alleges that Shutterfly stores these maps of face geometry in a massive database, and that whenever a new image is uploaded onto Shutterfly's site, the faces in the image are compared against those in the database. If a face's geometry matches that of an individual already in its database, Shutterfly suggests that the user "tag" the image with the individual's name. Id. ¶ 23. If no match is found, Shutterfly prompts the user to enter a name. Id.

Monroy alleges that in September 2014, an unnamed Shutterfly user residing in Chicago uploaded a photograph of Monroy onto a Shutterfly site. According to the complaint, "Shutterfly automatically located Plaintiff's face, analyzed the geometric data relating to the unique [*3]  contours of his face and the distances between his eyes, nose and ears, and used that data to extract and collect Plaintiff's scan of face geometry." Id. ¶¶ 29-30. Monroy further says that Shutterfly prompted the uploader to tag the face with a name, and that the user entered "Alex Monroy." The complaint also states that Shutterfly then stored Monroy's biometric data in its database, and that based on the scan, it extracted and stored additional information regarding his gender, age, race, and geographical location. Id. ¶ 32. Monroy does not use Shutterfly and never consented to Shutterfly's extraction and storage of data representing his face geometry. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.

According to Monroy, Shutterfly's collection and storage of this data violates BIPA. Passed in 2008, BIPA was the first law in the nation to address the collection and storage of biometric data.1 The legislative findings that precede the statute's substantive provisions observe that the "use of biometrics is growing in the business and security screening sectors and appears to promise streamlined financial transactions and security screenings." 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 14/5(a). However, the legislature also notes that the "overwhelming majority of members [*4]  of the public are weary of the use of biometrics when such information is tied to finances and other personal information." Id. § 14/5(d). This is because, unlike social security numbers and other personal information, biometrics "are biologically unique to the individual ... [so that] once compromised, the individual has no recourse, [and] is at heightened risk for identity theft." Id. § 14/5(c).

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2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149604 *

ALEJANDRO MONROY, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. SHUTTERFLY, INC., Defendant.

Prior History: Norberg v. Shutterfly, Inc., 152 F. Supp. 3d 1103, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175433 (N.D. Ill., Dec. 29, 2015)


biometric, scan, identifier, actual damage, photographs, Privacy, geometry, extraterritorial, collection, dormant commerce clause, technology, stored, fingerprints, cases, in-person, uploaded, alleges, damages, images, user, liquidated damages, circumstances, storage, argues, transactions, extracted, screening, legislative finding, private entity, take place

Civil Procedure, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Torts, Intentional Torts, Invasion of Privacy, Public Disclosure of Private Facts, Constitutional Law, Congressional Duties & Powers, Commerce Clause, Dormant Commerce Clause, Public Disclosure of Private Facts, Remedies