Facebook has agreed to set aside $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by users who allege the social media company violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), attorneys for the plaintiffs announced on Wednesday.
San Francisco Federal District Court Judge James Donato must still approve the settlement, which the lawyers claim is the largest cash settlement ever for a privacy-related lawsuit.
The alleged violation of the Illinois act relates to Facebook's collection of face prints for its face tagging feature, which leverages facial recognition software to identify Facebook users when photos of them are uploaded to the website. (That way, the user who uploaded the photo can then tag his or her recognized friends.)
Passed in 2008, BIPA establishes codified standards that private companies must adhere to when collecting, storing and using individuals' biometric identifiers and information. It also grants any persons aggrieved by a violation to a right of action, allowing them to seek damages in a state circuit court or federal district court. BIPS is the only state biometric privacy statute that has such a provision, said a press release issued by the firms Edelson PC, Labaton Sucharow LLP, and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP.
Facebook has denied the allegations of wrongdoing, said the lawyers. SC Media has reached out to Facebook for comment.
“Biometrics is one of the two primary battlegrounds, along with geolocation, that will define our privacy rights for the next generation. We are proud of the strong team we had in place that had the resolve to fight this critically important case over the last five years," said Jay Edelson, founder and CEO of Edelson PC. "We hope and expect that other companies will follow Facebook’s lead and pay significant attention to the importance of our biometric information."
On Tuesday, which was Data Privacy Day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used a company blog post to announce three new initiatives and features designed to help its users better control their data privacy.
Zuckerberg said that over the next few weeks Facebook would send prompts to almost 2 billion people, reminding them to check their privacy settings. The company also introduced a new Off-Facebook Activity tool that allows users to see information about them that other businesses collect and share with Facebook for advertising purposes. And earlier this month, Facebook introduced notifications that alert individuals when they use Facebook Login to sign in to third-party apps.
"One of our main goals for the next decade is to build much stronger privacy protections for everyone on Facebook. We know we have a lot of work to do here, which is why this is such a priority for our teams and for me personally," said Zuckerberg.