A California federal judge approved a $650 million settlement of a class action privacy lawsuit against Facebook filed by Illinois residents over the company's use of facial recognition technology. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of nearly 1.6 million users who accused the largest social media platform of violating their privacy.
The litigation began in April 2015, when Chicago attorney Jay Edelson filed a lawsuit against Facebook on behalf of plaintiff Carlo Licata. According to the lawyer, the social network used facial recognition technology without users' consent, which is prohibited by the Illinois privacy law.
The case received class action status in California federal court, when nearly 1.6 million residents of Illinois filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook, demanding compensation for collecting biometric data from users without their consent, thereby violating state laws. The plaintiffs argued that the system for face recognition in photographs, which was used by Facebook, actually allowed its administration to collect and store users' biometric data, for example, information about the color of their eyes. In total, Facebook has reportedly created and stored face templates for about 6.9 million Illinois users.
According to the court's decision, the company will pay the plaintiffs $650 million, $97.5 million of which will be directed to attorneys’ fees, and another $915,000 to legal costs. Each of the three plaintiffs officially listed in the lawsuit will receive $5,000, and the rest of the amount will be distributed among the rest of the participants in the class action lawsuit. Each of the 1.6 million residents of the state who filed the lawsuit will receive at least $345 in compensation from Facebook within two months if the company does not appeal the court decision.
"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," Facebook said in a statement.
Previously, Facebook offered to pay only $550 million to settle the class action lawsuit, but the district court in San Francisco expressed doubts about the adequacy of this amount.
U.S. District Judge James Donato called the settlement agreement a "landmark result" and "a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy."
Earlier it was reported that Facebook would no longer automatically use facial recognition technology on the platform. The company said that users have always had the opportunity to choose whether to use the face recognition feature, but promised that in the future, it would be disabled by default, and users will be able to allow its use in the settings.