Texas Fights Google Deposition Bid In Biometric Privacy Lawsuit

Texas has asked a judge to block Google from questioning the state and its legal team in their lawsuit. The lawsuit accuses the Alphabet unit of unlawfully collecting biometric privacy data of millions of Texans without consent. Attorneys for Texas stated in a court filing this week that Google’s demand to depose the state on various topics, including the state’s understanding of key terms in the privacy law, constitutes an impermissible effort to “investigate the investigator.”

“If every defendant could depose the State of Texas or the Office of Attorney General in a civil enforcement action, the state’s ability to remedy public harms would grind to a halt,” Texas argued to the Midland County court.

In its 2022 lawsuit, Texas accused Google of deceptive trade practices and alleged violations of a state law that protects biometric identifiers such as faces, fingerprints, and eye scans from unlawful capture without approval. The state claimed that data collection occurred through products such as Google Photos, Google Assistant, and Nest Hub Max. The privacy law imposes penalties of up to $25,000 per violation.

Google and Texas did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Texas has hired the global firm Norton Rose Fulbright to represent it in the case. Google, which has denied any wrongdoing, is represented by lawyers at Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

In a court filing last month, Google noted that the Texas biometric privacy law “sat unenforced for its first twenty years on the books” before the state lodged cases against Google and Facebook parent Meta in 2022. Meta, which has also denied wrongdoing, announced plans this month to settle the state’s lawsuit. Neither side has publicly revealed the proposed terms.

Google stated it wants to depose Texas on topics that include liability and penalties, accusing the state of seeking “astronomical penalties.” The company also wants to question Texas about its business arrangements with biometric vendors Clearview AI and Idemia. “Rather than investigate its conduct or bring enforcement actions, the state is paying Clearview AI for access to a trove of biometric information of Texans,” Google claimed. The company asserted that “there is nothing novel about deposing the state.”