Facebook is to pay $650m to users in Illinois who accused the company of using their biometric data without first obtaining their consent.
Nearly 1.6 million users in the Prairie State joined a class-action lawsuit filed against Facebook in April 2015 in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of plaintiff Carlo Licata.
The lawsuit alleged that the social media giant had violated an Illinois privacy law by using facial-recognition technology to scan photos uploaded by users and by digitally storing data regarding individuals’ faces without users’ permission.
In Illinois, the Biometric Information Privacy Act allows consumers to sue companies that harvest data such as faces and fingerprints or identify users without first obtaining permission.
After moving to Chicago federal court, the suit was then moved to California federal court, where it attained class-action status.
The settlement class included approximately 6.9 million Facebook users whose face templates were created and stored by the social media company after June 7, 2011. To qualify, users had to have lived in the state for a minimum of six months over the past nine years.
The 1.6 million claim forms filed by the deadline represented only about 22% of eligible Facebook users in Illinois.
The substantial settlement was approved Friday, February 26, by a California federal judge, James Donato, who described it as “a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”
Donato wrote that the deal “will put at least $345 into the hands of every class member interested in being compensated” and ordered Facebook to get the cash into the pockets of affected users “as expeditiously as possible.”
Providing no appeal is lodged against the ruling, impacted Illinois residents could get a check in the mail within the next two months, according to Chicago attorney Jay Edelson, who filed the initial lawsuit against Facebook nearly six years ago.
“It’s a big deal,” Edelson said. “It sends a pretty clear message that in Illinois, biometric privacy rights are here to stay.”
In a statement, Facebook said: “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 shareholders.”