Illinois Residents May Soon Get Hundreds of Dollars in a Settlement from Facebook

If you live in Illinois, you may be able to receive hundreds of dollars in compensation if your have a Facebook account. The company recently settled a lawsuit for $650 million that alleged that it broke Illinois state law that prohibited anyone from using facial recognition technology without first obtaining consent. Based on its potential liability under the Illinois law, Facebook ended up settling for a fraction of what it could potentially have owed. For Facebook, the settlement may resolve one of a number of pressing legal woes that the company is now currently facing.

Facial Recognition Is What Got Facebook in Trouble

Facebook added a feature to its service in 2015 to make it easier for users to tag other Facebook users in the photos that they post to their page. The system would automatically recognize the person in the pictures and would fill in the name to tag them in the post. However, the platform did not require that the users who were tagged consent to the use of their image in the facial recognition technology.

This allegedly ran afoul of an Illinois state law. The state had passed a biometrics statute that required companies to seek consent before using someone's face. This law has been on the books since 2008 and is intended to protect people's privacy. Under the state's law, any type of facial scan is considered to be biometric data and falls under the protection of the statute. Businesses cannot collect biometric data without first getting informed consent of the person whose data is being taken. They are also not allowed to profit from this biometric data. The statute instituted steep penalties for breaking the law, mandating that people be paid up to $5,000 in damages when their biometric data was unlawfully taken intentionally and $1,000 when breaking the law was a result of negligence.

There are other states who have similar laws on the books as Illinois such as Texas and Washington. However, the reason why there are not similar suits in those states is that their laws do not allow for individuals to file lawsuits for a violation like Illinois does. Facebook did change its policy in 2019, perhaps as a result of the lawsuit. Now, the company will be required to ask for informed consent before using biometric data, including facial recognition technology.

Facebook Was Forced to Offer More after the Judge Rejected the Initial Lawsuit Settlement

The lawsuit alleged that Facebook's facial recognition technology was a violation of Illinois' law. Given the potential for each plaintiff to be awarded $5,000 per violation, the stakes were actually very high for Facebook. The company had originally agreed to settle the lawsuit back in January 2020. However, judges are required to review and sign off on settlements of cases. In this case, the judge rejected the settlement as being too low based on the state's law. This forced Facebook to continue to negotiate a settlement agreement and to raise its offer. The judge will still need to approve the settlement agreement, so the matter is not completely closed yet for Facebook.

The settlement will work out to between $200-$400 for each Facebook user. Therefore, if you live in Illinois, you may be entitled to money if you file a claim once the settlement is approved. This can be a welcome source of money for Illinois residents during difficult financial times. Anyone with a Facebook account after the company instituted this feature may be eligible for their share of the settlement.

For those Illinois residents who had their privacy violated, this would actually represent one of the larger payments to plaintiffs in a privacy case of all-time. Previous privacy breaches did not result in very high payments to plaintiffs. The example, class members in the Experian data breach lawsuit received almost nothing in payment. Even still, the judge in the case may think that the plaintiffs are due even more. The judge had asked why plaintiffs were only receiving a fraction of what the law mandates when rejecting the initial settlement.

This is not the only lawsuit of its type in Illinois. Other companies such as Google and Shutterfly also find themselves in potential legal trouble for allegedly violating the law. There may be additional settlements in the future that can entitle Illinois residents to even more money for possible violations of their privacy.

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