Facebook allegedly violated Illinois state law by using consumers’ facial features to improve its photo-tagging software.
Nearly one and a half million Illinois residents have filed claims to part of a $650 million privacy settlement offered by Facebook.
According to NBC Chicago, the law firm responsible for the social media lawsuit said that 1.42 million Illinois residents have already filed claims. Eligible claimants could receive awards ranging between $200 and $400.
The lawsuit, says NBC, alleged that Facebook broke Illinois’ “strict biometric privacy law.” Under state statutes, technology companies cannot collect consumers’ data—including biometric information, such as that used for facial recognition and fingerprint scans—without first obtaining their explicit consent.
As LegalReader.com has reported before, this class action related to Facebook’s photo-tagging feature.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that Facebook illegally used, stored, and analyzed consumers’ likenesses to train its photo-tagging A.I.
Jay Eldeson, a Chicago-based attorney whose firm led the suit against Facebook, told NBC5 he believes this settlement will encourage more consumers to hold big technology companies responsible for failing to properly protect users’ personal data.
“We’re going to see a lot of constituents saying, ‘Why not me?’” Eldelson said. “This settlement, it’s going to really make the point that having laws on the books is the difference between people getting to go to court and getting real relief, and otherwise just getting trampled by these tech companies.”
Interestingly, NBC5 Chicago notes that the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act—or BIPA—predates Facebook’s popularity.
In fact, the statute was passed in response to the failure of Pay By Touch, a tech start-up that had partnered with grocery stores to offer fingerprint-based payment options.
However, Pay By Touch quickly went bankrupt. In an attempt to pay off its creditors, Pay By Touch’s top-level management considered selling off the company’s assets—including a database of user information which contained biometric data.
State lawmakers quickly proposed and enacted the Biometric Information Privacy Act, hoping to prevent Pay By Touch’s data stocks from falling into the wrong hands.
Eldelson says that, for years, the law received relatively little attention—even as Facebook and other social media companies grew in size and influence, and appeared to be breaking aspects of the act.
Now, though, Facebook is expected to distribute about two-thirds of the $650 million settlement to about 1.57 million Illinois residents.
The settlement, adds Qatar-based al-Jazeera, was originally supposed to reach closer to 6 million eligible Illinois residents; a judge had earlier expressed skepticism that anything under $1 billion would be sufficient for Facebook to adequately close the case.
While the settlement has been tentatively approved by U.S. District Judge James Donato, it will not be finalized until early next year.