Facebook reaches $550 million settlement in facial recognition lawsuit

Facebook reaches $550 million settlement in facial recognition lawsuit

Facebook reaches $550 million settlement in facial recognition lawsuit

The lawsuit against Facebook was filed in 2015 by IL users.

The company's chief financial officer David Wehner disclosed that expenses soared over the past year during an earnings call, saying they were "largely driven by higher legal fees and settlements".

The plaintiffs alleged that Facebook collected biometric information in the form of face prints, for the objective of supporting its "face tagging" feature, without their permission in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Under Illinois law, tech giants and other companies must obtain explicit permission before collecting a wide array of biometric data, including scans of one's face. The law allows for $1,000 in damages for each negligent violation and $5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation.

Facebook risks facing a $35 billion maximum fine if it does not pay the settlement. Similar suits were filed against Shutterfly, Snapchat and Google. The company promised to revamp its approach to privacy. It reached a historic US$5 billion deal last July with the US Federal Trade Commission to settle an investigation into its privacy practices stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal that came to light in early 2018. The three firms have been jointly litigating the case for almost five years.

US District Judge James Donato allowed the case to proceed as a class action on behalf of millions of IL residents who had uploaded photos on the network since 2011.

Jay Edelson, a lawyer whose firm represented plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, said late Wednesday that "biometric privacy is one of the biggest fights of the day", adding: "We are proud of this settlement and hope that others will follow Facebook's lead". "Here, Illinois enacted a statute not to thwart innovation, but to protect individuals' privacy". The analysts had predicted a revenue figure of $20.9 billion and Facebook topped this in reality.

The settlement will push technology companies to pay closer attention to users' concerns over biometric technology, said Ms Pam Dixon, executive director of nonprofit advocacy group World Privacy Forum.

IL heavily regulates the use of biometric identifiers, prohibiting the collection and storing of biometric information without consent from individuals.

The case is In re Facebook Biometric Information Privacy Litigation, 15-cv-03747, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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