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With Illinois’ strict biometric privacy law still intact, lawsuits continue to pile up against businesses

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(The Center Square) – Illinois’ biometric privacy laws were designed to protect people from overreach, but they have raised near bankruptcy-inducing levels of damages to businesses that violate the requirements.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a separate claim can be filed each time data is collected, such as a finger scan, resulting in massive punitive damages. The high court also suggested that the General Assembly take up the Biometric Information Privacy Act to clarify the legislature’s intent. That didn’t happen.

Leading business, healthcare and technology groups have been lobbying for months to get the law changed, saying it will force companies to abandon the state.

“The governor and lawmakers are trying to attract EVs and autonomous vehicles, but our policies are actually driving companies out of the state,” said Mark Denzler, President and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

Since 2008 when BIPA was enacted, business leaders say about 2,000 lawsuits have been filed against retailers, nursing homes, manufacturers and schools by claiming a violation of employee rights.

Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association, said trucking companies have been settling numerous frivolous lawsuits after they put safety technology in trucks.

“The trucking industry invests $9.5 billion each year to keep truck drivers safe and the motoring public safe. In Illinois, BIPA deters trucking companies from investing in new safety technology that could make our roads even safer,” said Hart.

BNSF Railway was ordered to pay $228 million after truck drivers brought a class-action lawsuit over the company’s policy of scanning their fingerprints when they entered BNSF rail yards.

On June 30, a federal judge vacated the award and ordered a new trial in the first case under BIPA to go to a jury. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled that BNSF should be able to argue for a reduction in the damages.

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