Social media giant Facebook has received preliminary approval from a California federal court to settle its Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) lawsuit for $650 million.
Under BIPA, companies are forbidden from the collection and/or retention of an individual’s biometric data without their express written consent in the state of Illinois. It’s perhaps the most comprehensive law in the United States regulating the use of facial recognition technology, with a number of high-profile companies having found themselves on its receiving end in the past year.
Earlier this month, U.S. senators Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley proposed a nationwide version of BIPA that, if approved, would become a major tool for privacy advocates across the country.
The company’s initial settlement offer of $550 million was rejected in June by U.S. District Court Judge James Donato on the grounds that it was too low, taking into consideration the number of potential claimants in the class-action suit. BIPA violations carry a fine of $1,000 per negligent infraction, and $5,000 for each knowing infraction.
At the time of the initial settlement offer, Judge Donato commented that though $550 million “is a lot of money…[t]he individual payments are going to end up being $150… possibly topping out at $300, depending on how things go with the claim rate. That is a significant reduction from the thousand dollars that the Illinois legislature set as the baseline.”
Though Facebook came back to the courts with an extra $100 million, it also opened the door for additional legal action against its affiliated companies, including big names like WhatsApp, by excluding them from a settlement agreement which releases the company and its executives.
A hearing for the final approval of the offer is scheduled for sometime in January of 2021.
August 20, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis