Illinois Facebook users could get $345 each in photo-tagging lawsuit after judge approves $650M settlement
CHICAGO - Illinois Facebook users may be entitled to at least $345 each after a federal judge approved a $650 million settlement in a lawsuit over Facebook's photo-tagging technology dating back to 2015.
The social media giant initially agreed to pay the record settlement in July of 2020 following an Illinois class-action lawsuit against the company's use of facial recognition technology, which violated the state's biometric privacy law allowing residents to claim as much as $5,000 if companies use the technology for data without user consent.
"By any measure, the $650 million settlement in this biometric privacy class action is a landmark result. It is one the largest settlements ever for a privacy violation, and it will put at least $345 into the hands of every class member interested in being compensated," U.S. District Judge James Donato said in a Friday court filing.
Illinois is the only state with a law that allows people to seek monetary damages for such unauthorized data collection.
"We are pleased to have reached a settlement so we can move past this matter, which is in the best interest of our community and our shareholder," Facebook told Fox Business in a statement.
Attorney Jay Edelson celebrated the settlement approval in a Friday tweet.
"One of the key takeaways is the Court's laser focus on innovative notice and ensuring unprecedented claims rates," he said. "Settlements need to be measured on how much money goes to class members. If no one is participating, that is a problem. The Court's approach set a new benchmark."
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Facebook used automatic photo recognition technology starting in 2015 so when users uploaded photos depicting other users, the platform's photo-tagging tool would immediately show name suggestions in an effort to make the tagging process easier. The tech giant updated its facial recognition policies in September 2019 to require user consent.
The company had originally agreed to settle the case for a record $550 million in January of 2020 but Donato said it was not enough under the Illinois law, according to NPR.
"It's $550 million. That's a lot. But the question is, is it really a lot?" Donato asked during a June 4 hearing, according to NPR, adding, "They are taking what is effectively a 98.75 percent discount off of the amount that the Illinois legislature said might be due in this case if you proved up your case."
By settling for $650 million, claimants can expect to receive between "at least $345," according to Donato's latest filing.
Other tech giants have come under fire in Illinois for their use of facial recognition technology without user consent in violation of the state's biometric law, which privacy advocates have praised as the nation’s strongest form of protection in the commercial use of such data.
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TikTok parent company ByteDance on Friday agreed to pay $92 million in a settlement to U.S. users who are part of a class-action lawsuit alleging that the video-sharing app failed to get their consent to collect data in violation of the biometric law. The settlement must still be approved by a federal judge.
"While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community," TikTok said in an emailed statement.
Additionally, two Illinois residents filed lawsuits on July 14 against Microsoft, Google and Amazon for violating the biometric law.
The lawsuits and Facebook settlement come as debates flare against the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement without a suspect's consent. Companies including Amazon, Microsoft and IBM have stopped police use of their facial recognition tools amid growing concerns over potential racial bias.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.