The Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), initially enacted to safeguard the biometric data of Illinois residents, has inadvertently become a looming threat to the viability of small and mid-sized manufacturers in northern Illinois.
With the veto session continuing through Nov. 9, lawmakers need to swiftly close the loopholes that allow frivolous litigation against our industry under the current BIPA interpretation.
At the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA), we represent a dedicated community of manufacturers who play a pivotal role in our local economy. Alarmingly, several of our members have become entangled in BIPA lawsuits, with the financial consequences being both severe and potentially devastating.
While protecting personal information is necessary, the language of the law allows for lawsuits that are unlikely to meet the spirit of the legislation.
Consider the case of a diligent Illinois manufacturer who took every precaution to ensure that the biometric data they collected remained secure and within their company’s control. Now, they face a staggering $5,000 penalty for every instance an employee uses a biometric scanner to check in and out of work. What’s even more distressing is that their insurance, like many others, refuses to cover BIPA-related liabilities. This business, which has conducted its operations ethically, is now confronted with the daunting decision of settling out of pocket or risking insolvency.
These challenges are not isolated incidents.
According to the Illinois Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (IL-CALA), more than 1,300 businesses in the Chicago metro region are defendants in BIPA cases. Beyond that, a staggering 57% of active BIPA cases in DuPage County have been initiated by just four national law firms.
It seems clear that opportunistic legal actors are overshadowing the original spirit of the legislation.
What citizens deserve to know is if BIPA operating as a get-rich-quick scheme for big law firms is the law “working as intended.” We believe lawmakers should never align themselves with predatory mega law firms at the expense of community-focused companies.
Other branches of government agree with us.
The message from the Illinois Supreme Court earlier this year was unequivocal. When they highlighted the potential for a jaw-dropping $17 billion lawsuit against White Castle, they also emphasized the urgent need for legislative intervention in BIPA, pointing out the current “annihilative liability” businesses face.
Now is the time for lawmakers to fix this broken bill.
During this veto session, the Illinois Legislature has a golden opportunity to strike a fair balance by reinterpreting the law so that a violation is deemed to occur only when biometric information is initially collected. A proposed amendment would protect biometric privacy while ensuring businesses are not burdened with back-breaking penalties for benign practices.
As we navigate this critical juncture, we at TMA join our partners and allies in urging the Illinois Legislature to prioritize the future of our manufacturing community and the broader Illinois business landscape. Our members and countless businesses like them deserve protection from disproportionate penalties.
Now, more than ever is the time to rise above politics and reform BIPA for the betterment of all.
The livelihoods of countless Illinois residents, the legacy of our manufacturers, and the very fabric of our local economy depend on it. Let’s get this right for today and for generations to come.