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Settlement Awards Hundreds of Millions to Plaintiffs for Facebook Facial Recognition Default Setting

A judge has approved the award of hundreds of millions of dollars to plaintiffs claiming that Facebook's "tag this photo" facial recognition feature illegally used their facial geometry without consent.  As part of the settlement, Facebook agreed to turn its default setting off.  

The plaintiffs used Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act to advance their claims.  It is one of a small handful of such statutes, and the only one that allows for a private right of action.  BIPA also provides for statutory damages if a claim is litigated and the plaintiffs prevail.  In this case, those statutory damages could have been in the billions of dollars.  

Although BIPA's biometric information protections are not common in other states, there is a growing wave of broader state-driven privacy laws washing over the US.  Companies that collect and process biometric or other personal data about employees, customers, and other persons are advised to pay attention to the states where they have contacts and monitor any privacy developments.  

A California federal judge on Friday praised a $650 million settlement resolving claims that Facebook's facial recognition technology violated Illinois users' biometric privacy rights, calling it a "landmark result," but he trimmed the $110 million requested attorney fees to $97.5 million. *** The settlement will put at least $345 each into the hands of 1.6 million class members who filed claims, according to the order, and Facebook has agreed to set its "face recognition" default setting to "off" for all global users and delete all existing and stored face templates for the class members.

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insights, data security and privacy, hill_mitzi