Facebook violated Illinois law by failing to obtain consent from local consumers to use their facial features on the website’s tagging feature.
Around 1.6 million Illinois residents can expect to receive $ 350 from Facebook.
That amount, according to The Chicago Tribune, was set as the average individual award for plaintiffs in a massive privacy lawsuit. The exact dollar amount payable to Illinois residents was set and approved Thursday by a California judge.
In total, Facebook is set to pay around $ 650 million to clarify allegations that it violated Illinois’ biometric privacy laws.
While the awards have been tentatively approved, US District Judge James Donato, who described the deal as a “groundbreaking settlement in a novel area,” is expected to deliver a final verdict in the coming weeks.
“This is money that comes straight out of Facebook’s pocket,” said Donato. “The violations here didn’t take a single cent out of the victim’s pockets. But that’s real money that Facebook is paying to compensate them for the noticeable privacy breaches they have suffered. “
The Chicago Tribune notes that the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act establishes some of the strictest biometric privacy regulations in the United States.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckberberg in 2018. Image via Wikimedia Commons / User: Anthony Quintano. (CCA-BY-2.0).
The law requires social media and other such businesses to obtain explicit consumer consent before using facial recognition and similar technologies to identify customers.
The class action specifically targeted Facebook’s Tag Suggestions feature. This feature, which went live a few years ago, allows users to tag friends and acquaintances in different images. It was practically a form of artificial intelligence designed to recognize individual users by their facial features and similarities.
While Facebook may have viewed its tagging feature as a convenience, consumer representatives said the company illegally integrated users’ facial profiles into a database that was then used to facilitate tag suggestion.
Approximately 1 in 5 eligible Illinois users submitted an application before November 23rd. However, it may be months before potential claimants receive their debt.
While Judge Donato was keen to point out the big deal, Facebook attorneys appear to have been relieved that they managed to settle the case before it went on trial.
Michael Rhodes, a California-based attorney who represents Facebook, previously told Donato that the company could have been held liable for “billions and billions of dollars” if the case went to court and Facebook lost.
“I mean, $ 650 million is a huge sum of money in any way,” said Rhodes. “Facebook doesn’t want that. But we’re also rational, intelligent people trying to manage a very significant risk. “
Even if the comparison is a barely significant drag on Facebook’s annual earnings, Ars Technica notes that the $ 350 unit price tag is unusually high for a class action lawsuit comparison involving hundreds of thousands of potential recipients.
Facebook pays more than $ 300 each to 1.6 million users in Illinois
Nearly 1.6 million Illinois Facebook users receive approximately $ 350 each in privacy bills