Significant Use Case: Facebook Will Pay $ 340 To Each 1.6 Million Users For Collecting Privacy Data Without Prior Consent

Each of the more than 1.5 million Facebook users in Illinois will receive about $ 340 in a state law settlement where the social network collected user data by recognizing their faces without prior consent. A judge hearing the case in California federal court upheld the final decision on Thursday, 6 years after the start of the trial.

"This is money that comes straight out of the pocket of Facebook," said US District Judge James Donato. - Violations did not result in monetary losses for victims. But this real money Facebook will pay them to compensate for the perceived privacy damage that people have suffered."

Initially, three different Illinois residents filed a lawsuit against Facebook in 2015 and claimed that a feature that suggested tagging other people in photos that used facial recognition technology violated their rights under the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA). Ultimately, the claims were consolidated into one group complaint and referred to federal court in California.

Illinois passed the BIPA in 2008 and it remains one of the strictest biometric data laws in the United States. The law requires any entity that collects biometric data, including fingerprints, voice samples, hand or face geometry, and retinal or iris scans, to obtain the prior express consent of the person being collected. These organizations must also protect the biometric data they collect as strictly as confidential personally identifiable information.

Plaintiffs in the case argued that Facebook violated this law when it introduced the "suggestion tags" feature without first obtaining explicit consent from users. In total, about 7 million Facebook users were affected in Illinois, and the law provides for fines of $ 1,000 for each accidental and $ 5,000 for each known violation of the law. Thus, Facebook could be obliged to pay as much as $ 35 billion.

Facebook tried to settle for $ 550 million in June 2020, but a judge rejected the deal as insufficient. The following month, he agreed to tentatively sign a modified $ 650 million settlement, which was finalized at a hearing this week.

The law firms representing the plaintiffs requested about $ 110 million for their services. It remains to divide the remaining $ 540 million between the approximately 1.6 million plaintiffs who filed an application before November 23 - a total of $ 338 each. These payments are expected to reach the plaintiffs in a few months. Typically, such class action lawsuits bring the plaintiffs literally pennies. So this case is an important precedent in Internet regulation.

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