A federal judge has granted preliminary approval to a class-action settlement requiring Facebook to pay $650 million for allegedly collecting the “faceprints” of Illinois residents.
“The $650 million that will be awarded to the Illinois class is an impressive result both as an absolute number and relative to other class action settlements in privacy cases,” U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California wrote in 8-page decision issued this week. “This is all the more true in light of the risks for plaintiffs in going to trial.”
Earlier this year, Donato rejected a proposed settlement that would have required Facebook to pay $550 million. The social networking platform then agreed to increase the settlement by $100 million.
Donato indicated at a hearing last month that he was likely to allow the revised deal to move forward.
If the settlement ultimately gains final approval, it will resolve a 2015 lawsuit alleging that Facebook's photo-tagging function violated an Illinois that prohibits companies from collecting or storing people's biometric data without their consent.
Facebook's photo-tagging, rolled out in 2011, allegedly draws on the social networking platform's vast trove of photos to recognize users' faces, and suggest their names when they appear in photos uploaded by their friends.
Facebook initially fought the lawsuit, arguing the case should be dismissed on the grounds that Illinois users weren't injured by any alleged violations of the state law.
Donato rejected Facebook's argument and ruled that the case could proceed as a class-action on behalf of Illinois users who have had their faceprints stored by the company since 2011. That ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Facebook attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court, but was turned away in January.
Numerous tech companies have settled privacy lawsuits, but relatively few of those settlements have resulted in monetary payments to consumers. Instead, many of the agreements require the companies to make donations to nonprofits -- a practice criticized by activists who say class members should directly benefit from settlements.
Even in cases where consumers have received payment, it's been relatively nominal. For instance, some purchasers of Vizio televisions were expected to receive approximately $16 each after that company settled allegations that it unlawfully shared information about consumers with ad-tech companies and data brokers.