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If a judge approves, Facebook may owe you a couple hundred bucks

Thursday, Jan 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

Facebook will pay $550 million to Illinois users to settle allegations that its facial tagging feature violated their privacy rights.

The settlement — which could amount to a couple of hundred dollars for each user who is part of the class-action settlement — stems from a federal lawsuit filed in Illinois nearly five years ago that alleges the social media giant violated a state law protecting residents’ biometric information. Biometric information can include data from facial, fingerprint and iris scans.

Illinois has one of the strictest biometric privacy laws in the nation. The 2008 law mandates that companies collecting such information obtain prior consent from consumers, detailing how they’ll use it and how long it will be kept. The law also allows private citizens to sue.

A federal court judge in San Francisco, where the lawsuit was moved, must approve the settlement. Those eligible to claim a portion of the settlement will be notified, said attorney Jay Edelson, whose firm represents some of the consumers.

Edelson’s firm is well-known for suing California tech companies and has expanded to Illinois. From the firm’s website

The next steps in this case will be the parties finalizing the settlement then presenting it to the Court and asking the Court to grant preliminary approval and direct notice to be sent to the Class. If you are a Class Member, you should get direct notice with additional details about the settlement and your specific options in the coming weeks. At this point, there is nothing you need to do.

* TechCrunch

The Illinois suit was filed in 2015, alleging that Facebook collected facial recognition data on images of users in the state without disclosure, in contravention of the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). Similar suits were filed against Shutterfly, Snapchat, and Google.

Facebook pushed back in 2016, saying that facial recognition processing didn’t count as biometric data, and that anyway Illinois law didn’t apply to it, a California company. The judge rejected these arguments with flair, saying the definition of biometric was “cramped” and the assertion of Facebook’s immunity would be “a complete negation” of Illinois law in this context. […]

2019 took the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Facebook was again rebuffed; the court concluded that “the development of face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests. Similar conduct is actionable at common law.”

Facebook’s request for a rehearing en banc, which is to say with the full complement of judges there present, was unanimously denied two months later.

At last, after some 5 years of this, Facebook decided to settle, a representative told TechCrunch, “as it was in the best interest of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter.” Obviously it admits to no wrongdoing.


  1. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 9:27 am:

    Facebook and social media in general is the bane of human existence. It is doing more damage than any drug and our kids are bearing the brunt of the damage.

  2. - ChicagoVinny - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 9:39 am:

    I’d like to know if the settlement allows them to keep the ill-gotten data (articles don’t say).

    I’d also like to see Illinois adopt further privacy laws, we should look at what California’s CCPA and also the GDPR for models.

  3. - River North - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 9:40 am:

    Reminds me of trailer park boys, “I’m gonna pay you a hundred dollars to **** off”

  4. - ChrisB - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 10:11 am:

    — which could amount to a couple of hundred dollars for each user who is part of the class-action settlement* —

    *After the lawyers get paid.

    Fixed it for them. Everyone is going to get a check for tree fiddy.

  5. - benniefly2 - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 10:20 am:

    I am still eagerly awaiting my check for $0.12 from Equifax.

  6. - Gantt Chart - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    An interesting unintended consequence of Illinois’ tight facial recognition is that Sony’s pricey robotic dog companion (Aibo) can’t be sold in Illinois. You may say “Who cares if Sony can’t sell an overpriced “toy” in Illinois?”, but this is an obstacle in the development of AI-based technology that may someday bring comfort to older citizens who have no human caregivers.

  7. - AI Bundy - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 10:54 am:

    This is the same law that prevents my Nest Doorbell from telling me who is at my door through facial recognition. (and I’m not talking about the kid selling candy. It has the ability to let me know when family and friends ring the doorbell). This law needs to be reassessed. Technology has changed in the last 12 years.

    Sent via my Moto Razr

  8. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 11:24 am:

    The loss of privacy in the last 20 years is easily explained by too many people’s willingness to trade away other people’s privacy in exchange for their own convenience.

    – MrJM

  9. - City Guy - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 11:51 am:

    AI Bundy,

    I don’t want my facial image and name going into the Google database (They own Nest) because someone doesn’t want to look at a picture to determine who is at the door. The big brother uses of facial recognition software don’t warrant me giving my rights for someone’s insignificant convenience.

  10. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 11:52 am:

    City Guy makes a valid point.

  11. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 12:28 pm:

    Social media facial recognition from a photograph is such a stretch from the law’s intent to protect biometrics like fingerprint and iris scans. First, I fail to see how a user-submitted photograph qualifies as a facial scan. A true facial scan would include x-ray, laser, or some other highly accurate anatomical measurement of facial features that could be reproduced consistently each time the face is scanned, like you might do with some high end security system. That kind of unique data deserves privacy protection, because of the uniquely and permanently identifiable nature of the data.

    Second, the ‘facial scan’ is simply analyzing patterns in pixels in the photograph to determine what is a brown cluster of pixels, what is a green cluster, etc, and then predicting objects that likely match those cluster patterns. Anybody with access to that photo could perform that analysis. Why does a common photo with a bit of generic math warrant the same protection? Are we saying that the Russians can harvest all of our social media images and build databases to identify and track people, but we won’t let grandma have an easier time finding pictures of little Annie?

  12. - BCOSEC - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 12:43 pm:

    I’m an older guy, so have some bias against how fast tech is moving. But I agree, facial recognition may have some convenience features, but otherwise bothers me that my families’ faces and mine are in some big database.

    As for Facebook, I find people are much more willing to throw out insults online versus to someone’s face. I bet a thousand or more Order of Protection/Stalking cases are filed in Illinois each year that at least in part originate from social media posts.

    Our small county has 150-200 “OP” cases per year with a population of less than 20K. A high percentage make reference to at least one negative/threatening social media post.

  13. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 3:09 pm:

    If someone rings my doorbell when I’m not expecting anyone, I just don’t answer the door. If it’s someone I know, they’ll call/text me to see where I am.

  14. - Southwest Sider - Thursday, Jan 30, 20 @ 5:55 pm:

    I’ve been off Facebook for six months and it is a peaceful feeling. If I want to connect with someone, I’ll call or visit.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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