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Local News

Lawsuit: Joliet company unlawfully collected, stored biometric data

U.S. Cold Storage is seen June 11, 2017, in Minooka.
U.S. Cold Storage is seen June 11, 2017, in Minooka.

A former employee of Joliet Cold Storage claims the company unlawfully collected, used and stored his biometric data.

William Starks, who spent three months working for the company at 1101 Cherry Hill Road in Joliet, claimed in a lawsuit filed Feb. 28 that Joliet Cold Storage required him to scan his fingerprint as a method to track his time on the job.

Starks claimed he never signed a written release allowing the company to collect or store fingerprints.

The lawsuit argued that Starks has “continuously and repeatedly been exposed to the risks and harmful conditions” created by the company’s violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act.

“If a fingerprint database is hacked, breached or otherwise exposed, employees have no means by which to prevent identity theft and unauthorized tracking,” according to the lawsuit.

A call left with Joliet Cold Storage on Tuesday was not returned.

Starks’ lawsuit is yet another accusing a Will County company of violating the state’s biometric information law.

On Jan. 4, Richard McGinnis, a former employee for U.S. Cold Storage, filed a lawsuit against that company over alleged privacy violations involving fingerprint and handprint scans that were required of him to clock in and out of work.

McGinnis claimed he worked for U.S. Cold Storage between 2011 and 2015. During that time, the company implemented a biometric scanning system that required him to place his entire hand on a panel to be scanned in order to clock in and out of work.

McGinnis filed his lawsuit the day after his federal lawsuit against U.S. Cold Storage was dismissed after a judge found he did not claim a concrete injury from the company.

U.S. Cold Storage denied in federal court filings that the biometric system exposed workers to privacy risks. The company said its hourly employees in Illinois use biometric time clocks to track their time worked and the clocks use a finger or hand scan rather than a key card or identification card.

McGinnis’ Will County lawsuit claimed he experienced mental anguish when thinking about what would happen to his biometric data if U.S. Cold Storage went bankrupt or if their biometric system was susceptible to hacking or theft.

McGinnis’ lawsuit is one of many filed by plaintiffs in Illinois that claim companies are violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, a 2008 state law that prohibits private entities from collecting people’s biometric data without consent.

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