Amazon Wins Pretrial Over Thermal Camera Biometric Privacy Claims

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An Illinois federal judge handed Amazon a pretrial win over accusations that it violated workers’ biometric privacy rights by using thermal cameras to screen for fevers during the pandemic, saying the company is immune from such claims under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act.

U.S. District Judge Sunil R. Harjani said the PREP statute is “definitely” on Amazon’s side in employee Cynthia Redd’s proposed class suit because the statute provides lawsuit and liability immunity to “all claims for loss” stemming from the administration or use of declaration-supported countermeasures covered by the statute.

Neither party disputed that the statute applied to both Amazon and its thermal cameras, but Redd argued its immunity protections were narrower and didn’t extend to her Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) claims. She argued immunity was granted only to “certain tort claims” for losses listed in the statute.

But Judge Harjani disagreed, saying the statute’s plain language was “the starting and ending point” of his analysis. Using the word “all” in the immunity provision indicates a sweeping statutory reach, and similarly broad is the language stating it applied to “any claim for loss” caused by the covered pandemic countermeasures, he said.