Joliet Harrah’s gets slapped in the facial recognition

Joliet Harrah's gets slapped in the facial recognition

A class-action lawsuit recently entered against a Harrah’s casino in Joliet, Illinois is, as have other similar lawsuits, pitting the use of facial recognition technology against individual rights to privacy. Harrah’s Casino in downtown Joliet has been slapped with a lawsuit that will most likely make it all the way up the chain of courts before being settled, but which could cost the venue, and parent company Caesars Entertainment, millions by the time it’s all over.

Joliet Harrah's gets slapped in the facial recognitionAccording to an article by, the lawsuit was initiated by Leon Martin and Anthony Adams before bringing in other patrons of the gambling house. It argues that the casino’s use of facial recognition violates the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) of 2008 in Illinois because the implementation began “without creating and following a written policy, made available to the public.” Both Martin and Adams are regulars of the venue and are members of Caesars’ rewards program.

The lawsuit was prepared and presented by a Chicago attorney, Douglas Werman, and two attorneys out of New York, Joseph A. Fitapelli and Dana Cimera. If successful, Harrah’s and Caesars are going to have to pay out liquidated or monetary compensation, whichever is higher, for every violation of the BIPA that has occurred. The suit alleges, “Defendants use facial recognition technology with their video security cameras at their Illinois casinos. Defendants’ facial recognition technology identifies a person by scanning the geometry of a person’s facial features and comparing that scan against databases of stored facial geometry templates.”

The use of the technology shouldn’t be allowed, according to the plaintiffs, for two reasons. First, Harrah’s didn’t tell its patrons that it was collecting biometric data in writing, as is required by law, and didn’t seek consent. Second, the casino never drafted a written policy on how it would use or retain the data that had been collected.

While the implementation of biometric surveillance, in theory, isn’t a bad thing, it is if state laws written to provide guidance on how it’s used aren’t followed. Harrah’s never made it known that it was beginning to use the technology and has apparently been spying on its patrons for years. According to the lawyers, because of the amount of time that has passed, the lawsuit could cover thousands of individuals.

They assert, “Unlike other companies in Illinois, defendants failed to take notice and follow the requirements of the Biometric Information Privacy Act, even though the law was enacted in 2008 and numerous articles and court filings were published about the law’s requirement before defendants committed the violations alleged in this complaint. As a result, defendants’ violations of the Biometric Information Privacy Act were reckless, or in the alternative, negligent.”

The lawsuit will make its first appearance in a Will County courtroom soon. However, it should be expected to make it all the way to the state’s highest court before a resolution is determined.