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Illinois’ strict online privacy laws haven’t stopped Facebook’s investments here

Friday, Apr 29, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Chicago Sun-Times editorial

For another session, the Illinois Legislature has wisely neither repealed nor weakened a pioneering law that protects the biometric information of each of the state’s residents, the Biometric Information Privacy Act. The Legislature stood firm even though many big tech companies would like to boot the law into cyberspace.

Individuals’ thumbprints, retinas, irises and faces become biometric information once they are stored digitally. Companies can profit when they use or sell the data. But if the data falls into the hands of criminals who scoop it up on the dark web or through data breaches, it could make ordinary identity theft look like a parking ticket. Unlike getting a new credit card number, biometric data can’t be changed.

BIPA requires entities that collect biometric information to notify people they are collecting it, say how it will be used and obtain their approval. It was the country’s first such law and remains the most stringent. On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled it doesn’t exclude photo-derived facial recognition.

But as reasonable as the law is — companies can collect the information, but they have to be open about it — it keeps popping up in lawsuits.

On Thursday, Google settled a $100 million class-action privacy lawsuit that alleged Google didn’t get users’ consent for a tool that sorts faces in its Google Photos app by similarity.

Last month, the U.S. Ninth Court of Appeals allowed a settlement to go forward in a lawsuit that claimed Facebook violated BIPA by collecting and storing users’ biometrics as part of its “tag suggestions” and other features involving facial recognition technology.

* The state law hasn’t scared Facebook away from Illinois. From a couple of days ago…

Today, Meta announced that they are expanding the Meta DeKalb Data Center by three new buildings. Once completed, the nearly 2.4 million-square-foot data center will represent an investment of over $1 billion and will support more than 200 operational jobs.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our presence in Illinois. The city of DeKalb and the State of Illinois have been great partners from the beginning, and we look forward to a continued strong and fruitful partnership for years to come,” said Darcy Nothnagle, Director of Community and Economic Development, Meta.

“The impact Meta has made within the City of DeKalb goes beyond just an economic one,” said Mayor Cohen Barnes, City of DeKalb, IL. “Since day one, they have made a concerted effort to make a larger impact on DeKalb, and I look forward, with this announcement, to seeing that partnership continue to grow over the years to come.”

“With more than 1,200 construction workers on site every day at the Meta DeKalb Data Center and plans to support hundreds of permanent employees when fully operational, all of Illinois can agree the data center project has been a boon to Illinois and a great benefit to the City of DeKalb and DeKalb County,” said Paul Borek, Executive Director, DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation. “The expansion proves Illinois, and specifically DeKalb County, can meet the needs of large global companies which require a skilled workforce, modern infrastructure, and a strong and competitive business environment.”

Additionally, Meta is announcing the application window for the company’s Community Action Grants program will launch in DeKalb County in the fall of 2022. Meta’s Community Action Grants are available to schools and registered 501c3 non-profit organizations in locations where Meta has an online data center. For more information, you can visit: https://datacenters.fb.com/grants/. To further enhance the local impact of this announcement, Meta also provided a $50,000 grant to support STEM materials and opportunities in 2022 for elementary and secondary students in DeKalb Community School District 428.

“At Meta, we are committed to playing a positive role and investing in the long-term vitality of the communities in which we operate. One of the ways we do this is by funding projects that meet community needs through our Community Action Grants program,” said Nothnagle.

“District 428 is very excited about the opportunities the STEM grant and Community Action Grants will afford DeKalb students,” said Dr. Minerva Garcia-Sanchez, Superintendent of Schools, DeKalb CUSD 428 School District. “Meta continues to be a great partner to the District. We look forward to the future as we transform from being known as an agricultural community to one of the leading technological centers in the nation and we look forward to our future endeavors.”

“From the moment Meta announced its intention to develop its facility in DeKalb County, company representatives began engaging with the community in meaningful ways: as a thought partner on local issues, a generous supporter of community events and a progressive employer,” said Dr. Lisa Freeman, President, Northern Illinois University. “We look forward to expanding our excellent partnership with Meta to advance our mutual goals for advancing equitable economic development, innovation and educational attainment for the region.”

Meta is also announcing an exciting Illinois partnership that is helping the company - and has the potential to eventually help others - lower the carbon footprint of our construction. Meta is collaborating with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a pilot with the goal of developing a more sustainable concrete mix. The process uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help experts generate the possible formulas for the concrete mixes. This work helps Meta move toward further reduction of our carbon footprint to reach net zero emissions across our value chain in 2030. Through collaboration with Meta’s concrete trade partner, Ozinga, the formula was refined and test applications were poured in non-critical areas of the DeKalb Data Center. These test applications confirm early signs that Meta has been able to successfully design and use concrete that meets our long-term strength requirements and has a 40 percent lower carbon impact than the regional benchmark. While Meta is encouraged by the success of this pilot, further developments and tests are needed to scale the impact of this innovation.

In Illinois, Meta has invested in two new wind energy projects in Morgan and DeWitt counties, adding a total of 295 MW of renewable energy to the local grid. Meta data centers are on average 80% more water efficient than the industry standard, and the company’s global operations, including the DeKalb Data Center, are supported by 100% renewable energy. These renewable energy projects represent over $140 million in local investment and will support nearly 700 construction jobs. Project operations will support 30 jobs annually across the state.

       

12 Comments
  1. - Anon221 - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 9:50 am:

    “…are supported by 100% renewable energy.” Are they installing solar panels on the new campus in DeKalb??? Didn’t look like it from the drawings for the new buildings.


  2. - Dupage Mom - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 10:01 am:

    I’m sure parents will love Meta’s involvement in their school, “Facebook
    will be the data controller responsible for information collected in relation to the Grant
    Program, and CAF America and CyberGrants will process information on Facebook’s behalf”


  3. - TNR - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 10:09 am:

    == Are the installing solar panels..? ==

    Most of the data centers that are looking to go green purchase energy generated by off-site solar or wind projects. I assume that’s what’s happening here. Data centers burn so much electricity, a roof-top solar install on the property doesn’t always generate enough juice.


  4. - Anon221 - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 10:25 am:

    TNR- Neither does “offsite” wind. The Lincoln Land Wind Project was at a total standstill Tuesday night this week. The wind project in DeWitt County won’t even be up and (possibly) running until very late in 2022. In addition to roof top solar, and even solar panels over the parking lots at that campus, there are roof top wind turbines and battery storage that Meta could be investing in very locally… on site. Facebook signed a 107 MW PPA with Lincoln Land in 2020. According to the DeWitt County’s wind site, 125 MW PPA. That doesn’t add up to 295 MWs of PPAs, but maybe they upped it at Lincoln Land since 2020. https://www.environmentalleader.com/2020/08/facebook-ppa-wind-energy-illinois/


  5. - JS Mill - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 10:27 am:

    =We are thrilled to be expanding our presence in Illinois. The city of DeKalb and the State of Illinois have been great partners from the beginning,=

    Kind Of dispels the idea that Illinois is not business friendly.


  6. - Luddite - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 10:29 am:

    Thank goodness for BIPA.


  7. - Anon221 - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 10:47 am:

    Geothermal is also an on-site option, and there might even be renewable tax credits if they installed that. When anything of this size is built, why not have (or even require) the company do everything they can to offset their energy usage onsite before going to immediately going to PPAs?


  8. - Nick - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 10:48 am:

    I just hope the address I listed for the settlement is my current one and not my last one


  9. - Chicago 20 - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 10:49 am:

    Location, location, location.
    Centralized location, capable high tech enabled efficient labor force and a reliable power source.
    It’s all here.


  10. - Yahoo - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 11:20 am:

    Keep BIPA the way it is.


  11. - Huh? - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 11:44 am:

    $100 million fines are pocket change and cost of doing business for companies such as google and facebook.


  12. - JS Mill - Friday, Apr 29, 22 @ 12:51 pm:

    =I’m sure parents will love Meta’s involvement in their school=

    Why, because you think they don’t already have FB on their phones and computers? Plus, Go read SOPPA on your schools website. They are safer if they use META through school than on their personal device.


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