The White Castle fast food chain could be forced to pay billions in fines after being found guilty of collecting its employees' biometric fingerprints without consent.
Popular American fast food chain White Castle could be forced to pay $17 billion in penalties after losing a class-action lawsuit filed by long-time employees over the misuse of workers' biometric fingerprints.
The case was heard in the state of Illinois Supreme Court, with a close ruling of 4-3 in favor of employees.
The workers accused White Castle of repeatedly scanning the fingerprints of nearly 9,500 employees for over a decade, without their consent, as required under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
BIPA requires companies to obtain permission before collecting fingerprints, retinal scans, and other biometric data from workers and consumers.
The act imposes penalties of $1,000 per violation and $5,000 for reckless or intentional violations.
According to the decision, White Castle could be fined for every single time an employee had to scan a fingerprint to use the computer system – not just when their fingerprint was initially collected by the company.
A White Castle spokesperson said the chain was disappointed with the ruling and was considering its options.
Nearly 2,000 lawsuits alleging BIPA violations been filed in Illinois since 2017, resulting in a series of massive settlements and judgments.
In 2020, Meta’s Facebook agreed to pay $650 million to settle a BIPA class action involving its use of facial recognition software, although they would not admit to any wrongdoing.
Founded in 1921, White Castle is the first official fast-food chain in the United States. Though A&W was founded two years previously, it initially only sold root beer, making White Castle the oldest burger franchise in many people's eyes.
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