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Facebook forced to pay $550 million settlement over facial recognition lawsuit

Facebook is going to have to pay quite a few people money as part of the settlement of a facial-recognition lawsuit. The catch is you have to live in Illinois.

Illinois has some of the strictest biometric privacy laws, and a 2015 lawsuit alleges that the social network violated these laws through the use of facial-recognition software in its photo tag feature without people’s consent. Illinois’ 2008 law requires companies to obtain permission before using people’s biometric data and be transparent with how the data is used and kept.

Once the settlement is approved by a judge, Facebook will have to shell out $550 million to people in Illinois, which the Chicago Tribune said will result in each person affected getting up to a couple of hundred dollars.


Attorney Jay Edelson, whose firm represents some of those who filed in the 2015 lawsuit, told the Chicago Tribune that those eligible for a claim would be directly notified.

“We are expecting a record number of claims to be filed,” Edelson told the Tribune. “But even with that, we think that the class members are going to get a good amount of money.”

February court date

The payout timeline will be set during a February 6 court date. Illinois residents can most likely expect to start being notified about the claim in a month.

A Facebook spokesperson told Digital Trends that it chose a settlement over going to trial.

“We decided to pursue a settlement, as it was in the best interest of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter,” the spokesperson said.

Facebook has been in hot water over its use of facial recognition software before. The technology used in the photo tagging feature was, in part, a reason for Facebook having to pay the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a historic $5 billion settlement last summer. The FTC said Facebook misrepresented users’ ability to control how their photos were used for facial recognition.

You’ve probably used the feature before: Facial recognition software matches faces in your photos to you or your friends and suggests people to tag. 

In September, Facebook announced that it would stop using facial recognition by default on your photos and tagging suggestions. Users can easily opt-in or opt-out of the tag suggestion feature and those who do not have the feature on will not appear in suggested tags or the Photo Review feature.

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