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Facebook Users OK’d Data Harvest, Engineer Says

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Facing claims that it violates users' privacy by storing biometric face-recognition data, Facebook called one of its software engineers to the witness stand on Wednesday in Federal Court.

In a 2015 class action, lead plaintiff Carlo Licata accused Facebook of holding the largest privately held stash of such data in the world, in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008.

At Wednesday's evidentiary hearing, Facebook called on software engineer Joachim De Lombaert to testify about the source code for the site's registration process, in which users agree to Facebook's terms and conditions.

Facebook argues that its biometric practices do not stray beyond those terms and conditions.

De Lombaert said that he reproduced about 150 pages of code for the registration pages that the plaintiffs would have used when they signed up for Facebook in 2005 and 2008, taking screenshots of the "accurate representations" of what the sign-up pages would have looked like at those times.

On the reproduced pages, he said, users must have clicked the box asserting that they had read and agreed to Facebook's terms and conditions in order to create their Facebook accounts.

U.S. District James Donato asked whether users who registered from cellphones were required to check such a box, and De Lombaert said they were not.

Other questions brought by the plaintiffs' attorney Shawn Williams included whether the type of browser would make a difference in the registration pages' appearance and how accurate the appearance of De Lombaert's page reconstructions were.

De Lombaert said that he did not know if he recreated the exact pixels the plaintiffs would have seen, but the structure, styles, colors and sizes were accurate.

Williams is with Robbins Geller in San Francisco.

Facebook is represented by John Nadolenco, with Mayer Brown in Los Angeles.

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