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Verdicts & Settlements

Facebook Will Pay $650 to Settle Illinois Digital Privacy Violations

— February 28, 2021

An estimated 1.6 million Illinois residents will be eligible to claim payments of at least $345 each.

Facebook will pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle a lawsuit alleging the social media company violated Illinois digital privacy laws.

According to The Chicago Tribune, a California-based judge issued a final approval for the settlement on Friday. Under the terms of the agreement, Facebook must act “as expeditiously as possible” to disburse $650 million to hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents.

Eligible claimants, says the Tribune, will be entitled to payments of at least $345 each.

Jay Edelson, a Chicago attorney who represented the plaintiff class, said checks could be sent out within the next six weeks—provided, of course, that Facebook does not file an appeal challenging the award.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge James Donato noted that the agreement is among the largest-ever privacy-related settlements.

“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.

“Overall,” Donato wrote, “the settlement is a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”

Donato suggested that the settlement’s scale also has important implications.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckberberg in 2018. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user: Anthony Quintano. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“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.”

Illinois, notes FOX Business, is the only state which allows residents to seek monetary damages if their digital privacy rights have been infringed upon. That’s because the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act is among the strictest digital privacy statutes in the country, requiring that companies obtain consumers’ consent before using technologies such as facial recognition to identify individual users.

As LegalReader has reported before, Facebook purportedly used facial recognition software to facilitate its “tagging”—a feature which scans user-uploaded photographs, then suggests “tags” for each person featured within.

Facebook had initially offered to settle the suit for about $550 million, but that amount was criticized as too small by Judge Donato.

“It’s $550 million. That’s a lot. But the question is, is it really a lot?” Donato said in July. “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.”

The agreement, now finalized, may set some precedent for other pending cases. Lawsuits are currently lined up against Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, all of which are accused of similarly violating Illinois’ biometric security laws.


Facebook privacy settlement approved: Nearly 1.6 million Illinois users will ‘expeditiously’ get at least $345

Illinois Facebook users could get $345 each in photo-tagging lawsuit after judge approves $650M settlement

Judge approves $650 million Facebook privacy settlement over facial recognition feature

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