Illinois Facebook Users Could Soon See Class Action Payments

Users could see as much as $300 as part of a massive $550 million settlement reached in January. The lawsuit alleged that the social media company violated state privacy law with its facial tagging feature.

by Ally Marotti, Chicago Tribune / May 15, 2020
Shutterstock/rafapress

(TNS) — Illinois Facebook users could soon learn if they’re eligible for up to $300 as part of a class-action settlement alleging the social media giant violated state privacy law with its facial tagging feature.

Attorneys representing users filed court documents last week showing class members are estimated to receive between $150 and $300 as part of a massive $550 million settlement reached in January. There is no timeline set on notification or payout, and a federal judge in San Francisco must approve the details.

The class is defined as Facebook users in Illinois whose images the company used to create a stored face template after June 7, 2011, the date Facebook said its tag suggestion feature was available in most countries. Users must have also lived in the state for at least six months.

Records from the Menlo Park, California-based company will be used to determine who is eligible for the payout.

Class members will be notified via email and on Facebook, according to plans detailed in court documents. A notice will appear in eligible users’ profiles, and a notification will pop up in their Facebook news feeds.

It could be weeks before eligible users receive notifications. The next court hearing is scheduled for June 4, but the coronavirus pandemic has been pushing many hearings back. Once the judge approves the plans, Facebook has up to 35 days to send out notifications, according to court documents.

Total payments will depend on how many people make a claim. To get the money, class members must submit “a timely and properly completed” claim.

Users will be provided with a link where they can submit a claim, and a website where they can download a form to mail in, if they prefer. There will be a deadline for submitting claims, which has not been set.

Facebook also agreed as part of the settlement to turn off its facial recognition feature for class members, and delete existing face templates unless users say otherwise. The facial recognition feature was set to “off” by default for new users in September 2019.

The settlement stems from a federal lawsuit filed in Illinois five years ago alleging Facebook violated a state law protecting residents’ biometric information, which includes data from facial, fingerprint and iris scans. The lawsuit was later moved to California.

“As we explained in January, we decided to pursue a settlement as it was in the best interest of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter,” Facebook spokeswoman Dina El-Kassaby said in a statement.

©2020 the Chicago Tribune, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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