Facebook’s agreement to pay $650 million to settle class-action litigation alleging it violated users’ privacy via its photo-tagging feature — one of the biggest ever in a privacy lawsuit — has been approved by a federal judge.
Under the settlement, Facebook users who submitted claims in the case (about 1.6 million people) will receive at least $345 each, according to the order. The lawsuit alleged Facebook violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act by collecting and storing digital scans of individual users’ faces without prior notice or consent.
“By any measure, the $650 million settlement in this biometric privacy class action is a landmark result,” U.S. District Court Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California wrote in his order Friday approving the settlement (available at this link). “Overall, the settlement is a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”
In a statement, a Facebook rep said, “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 has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
The litigation dates back to 2015. Facebook had agreed to a $550 million settlement in January 2020, then agreed to increase that to $650 million at the judge’s behest. The deadline for Facebook users to file a claim form was Nov. 23, 2020. In the approval order, the court awarded $97.5 million in attorneys’ fees as well as $915,454.37 in expenses to the three class counsel firms.
Under the settlement, Facebook will set its “face recognition” default user setting to “off” and will delete all existing and stored face templates for class members (unless Facebook obtains express consent after a separate disclosure about how Facebook will use the face templates). The social giant also will delete the face templates of any class members who have had no activity on Facebook for three years.