Facebook Settles for $650 Million for Breach of Privacy Becoming a Landmark Privacy Violation Suit.



In a class-action lawsuit filed in Illinois in 2015, nearly 1.6 million Facebook users had brought a claim against Facebook for allegedly using photo face-tagging and other biometric data without the permission of its users. However, after multiple years, this February, a US district judge James Donato agreed that Facebook would be paying a $650 million settlement of a privacy lawsuit which is $100 million more than facebook's initial settlement offer of $550 million, consequently, giving each of the 1.6 million users at least $345 with the three main plaintiffs who filed the suit receiving $5,000 each.


According to Judge Donato, it was one of the largest settlements ever for a privacy violation (when private information is mishandled or can compromise the user's privacy). Additionally according to Jay Edelson, a Chicago attorney who filed the lawsuit, “It will put at least $345 into the hands of every class member interested in being compensated,” he wrote, calling it “a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”


According to the Guardian, this lawsuit was made possible due to the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act stating that “consumers can sue companies that didn’t get permission before harvesting data such as faces and fingerprints.”


The lawsuit claimed that Facebook's Tag Suggestion Feature, where they use people's faces that are recognized to suggest tags, was an invasion of privacy and was against the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act since users were never asked if they allowed Facebook to use this facial recognition software.


Since the announcement of the settlement, Facebook has spoken out and has released a statement saying that they “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,”


The Privacy Act and breach of personal privacy have become a larger problem especially with social media being such a big part of everyday life in the current time. In addition to facebook's large settlement, Tik-Tok, another popular social media platform “has agreed to a $92 million settlement to resolve claims that the company harvested and shared data belonging to minors.”


This case, similar to facebook’s most recent lawsuit, also concerned the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act and was a class-action lawsuit brought on in California. “TikTok has agreed to the settlement -- despite denying any wrongdoing -- in order to focus on "building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community."”


Works Cited:

  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/judge-approves-650m-facebook-privacy-lawsuit-settlement-facebook-ap-settlement-judge-judge-b1808386.html

  2. https://www.zdnet.com/article/judge-approves-650m-settlement-for-facebook-users-in-privacy-biometrics-lawsuit/#:~:text=On%20Friday%2C%20in%20California%2C%20US,as%20a%20%22landmark%20result.%22

  3. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/feb/27/facebook-illinois-privacy-lawsuit-settlement

  4. https://www.cfr.org/blog/facebook-one-million-takedowns-day-evidence-failure-not-success

  5. https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-tiktok-illinois-biometric-privacy-lawsuit-20200513-jogjwzp4ofa67nu6pwsduxz7si-story.html