Facebook Pays $650 Million to Settle Illinois Facial Recognition Lawsuit

Facebook Pays $650 Million to Settle Illinois Facial Recognition Lawsuit
The logo for social media giant Facebook at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square in 2018. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)
Isabel van Brugen

Illinois Facebook users are now able to submit claims online and receive payouts between $200 and $400 as part of a $650 million settlement that followed a class-action lawsuit, claiming the social media giant illegally collected and stored biometric data of millions of users without their consent.

The lawsuit, that was ongoing for more than five years, accused Facebook, Inc. of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), via its “Tag Suggestions” feature and others involving facial recognition technology. The feature allowed users to recognize their Facebook friends from previously uploaded photos.

BIPA states that companies can't collect, store, or give out "biometric data," including face or fingerprint scans, without first giving notice and receiving user consent. Facebook denies it violated any law.

Affected users are now able to file claims digitally until Nov. 23 this year. According to the website, "Facebook users located in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011” may be eligible to receive payouts of up to $400.

The $650 million settlement fund is being overseen by Hon. James Donato of the Northern District of California’s District Court. Individuals must have lived in Illinois for at least six months, or 183 days, to file a valid claim under the settlement, the website states.

Illinois Facebook users eligible to receive payouts will reportedly be notified via email and Facebook, the Chicago Tribune reported. It is not yet clear when the payouts will be issued.

As part of the settlement, Facebook has also been asked to "turn 'off' the Facial Recognition setting and delete face templates for most Class Members unless they turn it back 'on'."

Facebook said it will also delete any face templates of any Class Members who have been active on the social media platform for a period of three years.

Facebook last month raised its settlement offer by $100 million. The social media giant previously reached a $550 million settlement in January.

Some of the settlement funds will be used to pay for the cost of notifying people about the settlement, lawyers' fees, awards to the class representatives who helped bring the lawsuit, and certain taxes, the settlement website explains.

The company has recently faced criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices. Last year, it agreed to pay a record $5 billion fine to settle a Federal Trade Commission data privacy probe.

Reuters contributed to this report.