Facebook to Pay $650 Million Privacy Settlement Over Facial Recognition

The company was ordered by a judge to pay out over $345 per recipient, in an Illinois state law violation, totaling $650 million in payments.

Credit | Facebook

A federal judge ended a class action lawsuit against Facebook last Friday, rewarding over $650 million to 1.6 million class members in Illinois. The judge said the claims were to be paid “as expeditiously as possible.”

Jay Edelson, a Chicago attorney, sued Facebook in Cook County Circuit Court back in 2015, alleging that the company’s usage of facial recognition was not allowed according to Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. The lawsuit had said that Facebook’s Tag Suggestions tool, which scans faces and gives a recommended account to tag, stored biometric data without consent, which would be a violation of the state’s law.

ABC News

The lawsuit was originally a civil case, before becoming a class action lawsuit in 2018. That led Facebook to make facial recognition on their major platforms, opt-in only.

Facebook’s Tag Suggestions program generated automatic suggestions for taggable people, using scans of previously uploaded, public images, to identify and recognize people in new shots. The lawsuit said that it was created without user consent, which would have violated said Illinois law.

Attorney Jay Edelson had even said

Biometrics is one of the two primary battlegrounds, along with geolocation, that will define our privacy rights for the next generation.”

The original settlement was proposed by Facebook to sit at $550 million, although a few months later, District Judge James Donato had said that figure wasn’t high enough, especially when taking into account the over 1.6 million people involved.

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The final settlement, upped to $650 million, will “put at least $345 into the hands of every class member interested in being compensated.” The total cost that Facebook is settling, is one of the largest settlements for a privacy violation, ever.

Facebook had said the day after, that the company was “pleased to have reached a settlement, so we can move past this matter, which is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders.” In Facebook’s eyes, they’re likely the winner of this case, especially when taking into account the $5 billion the company paid for their Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Ironically though, this wasn’t the first case that was filed on behalf of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. Sony’s robot dog prototype, Aibo, has a camera and facial recognition software, which forced the company to not sell the product in Illinois. Google’s software supposedly collected face scans of millions of unknowing students in Illinois through its software classroom tools as well.

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