Facebook disclosed on January 29, 2020, that it has agreed to pay $550,000,000 to resolve a biometric privacy class action filed by Illinois users under the Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”). BIPA is an Illinois law enacted in 2008 that governs the collection, use, sharing, protection and retention of biometric information. In recent years, numerous class action lawsuits have been filed under BIPA seeking statutory damages ranging from $1,000 per negligent violation to $5,000 per reckless or intentional violation.
Under the proposed settlement, Facebook agrees to establish a $550,000,000 fund to compensate Illinois users who claim Facebook violated BIPA by using facial recognition in its tag recognition feature without user consent. According to the announcement, the agreement also requires Facebook to obtain consent from Illinois users before collecting their biometric information.
Facebook said in a statement that it decided to resolve the lawsuit, which had been ongoing for five years, because “it was in the best interest of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to district court after refusing Facebook’s request to review a Ninth Circuit decision that affirmed class certification and set the stage for trial in California federal district court. Considering the millions of Illinois users and the potential for statutory damages, a trial could have resulted in billions of dollars in damages.
The parties will present the settlement to U.S. District Judge James Donato for preliminary approval.
Update: On August 19, 2020, Judge Donato granted preliminary approval of Facebook’s $650 million settlement offer. In July, Facebook had increased its settlement offer by $100 million. A final approval hearing is scheduled for January 7, 2021.