Facebook will pay over half a billion dollars to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged systematic violation of an Illinois (a state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes Regions of the United States) consumer privacy law.
Class members — basically Illinois Facebook users from mid-2011 to mid-2015 — may expect as much as $200 each, but that depends on several factors that is the proposed settlement would require Facebook to obtain consent in the future from Illinois users for such purposes as face analysis for automatic tagging.
The Illinois suit was filed in 2015, alleging that Facebook collected facial recognition data on images of users in the state without disclosure, in contravention of the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
Similar suits were filed against Shutterfly, Snapchat, and Google.
Facebook pushed back in 2016, saying that facial recognition processing didn’t count as biometric data, and that anyway Illinois law didn’t apply to it, a California company.
The judge rejected these arguments with flair, saying the definition of biometric was “cramped” and the assertion of Facebook’s immunity would be “a complete negation” of Illinois law in this context.
Facebook was also suspected at the time of heavy lobbying efforts towards defanging BIPA.
One state senator proposed an amendment after the lawsuit was filed that would exclude digital images from BIPA coverage, which would of course have completely destroyed the case.
It’s hard to imagine such a ridiculous proposal was the suggestion of anyone but the industry, which tends to regard the strong protections of the law in Illinois as quite superfluous.
The $550 million amount negotiated is “the largest all-cash privacy class action settlement to date,” according to law firm Edelson PC, one of three that represented the plaintiffs in the suit.
Yeukai is an ambitious and passionate journalist. She enjoys writing and reading about technology and has made it her number one priority. She has been practicing journalism for 5 years now. In her journey as a writer, she has written three novels so far.