Illinois business, health care, tech groups denounce proposed changes to Biometric Information Privacy Act

(The Center Square) – Business, health care and technology groups are joining forces to express opposition to proposed changes to Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

During a news conference Friday, representatives from several groups, including the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce denounced a proposed change that was made late Thursday, the day before session was scheduled to adjourn.

An amendment filed with House Bill 3811 includes a 50% increase in the minimum penalty businesses face for violating BIPA that can be awarded in future cases. The amendment remains in a Senate committee.

“There’s not a single business organization that supports this legislation, except the trial bar,” IMA president and CEO Mark Denzler said. “Make no mistake, this is not BIPA reform. … Just when we thought BIPA couldn’t get any worse for businesses in Illinois, lawmakers unveil a proposal that will only increase abuse of this law by trial attorneys.”

The coalition of business and technology groups had called on the legislature to make changes to BIPA after an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that said each time a person’s biometric data is collected without their consent is a violation of BIPA.

White Castle is facing potential lawsuit damages of up to $17 billion as a result of the ruling. The high court suggested the Illinois General Assembly may want to take up the issue for possible changes.

The business coalition asked for the law to be updated to require proof that actual harm occurred to individuals before imposing fines. They also wanted businesses to be allowed to use biometric technology for routine human resources and record-keeping purposes including time clocks.

In the 15 years since BIPA was enacted, the group said more than 1,500 frivolous lawsuits have been filed by class action lawyers against manufacturers, retailers, hospitals, nursing homes, entertainment venues, hotels and other businesses by claiming violation of employee or consumer rights even though there has been no harm to individuals, theft of identities or nefarious intent.

Illinois is the only state that allows individuals the right to sue over the improper collection of biometric data.

“The Illinois Supreme Court punted the football to the General Assembly, asking them to clarify their intent on damages,” said Clark Kaericher, ICC Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. “After months of negotiations, right before crossing the goal line, the General Assembly is on the verge of fumbling the football with this amendment.”

Even though session is scheduled to end, without a proposed budget having surfaced, it’s expected lawmakers will be returning to Springfield in the days ahead after adjourning Friday.

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