Facebook agrees to pay record $650M to settle facial recognition lawsuit

Facebook used automatic photo recognition technology starting in 2015

Facebook has agreed to pay a record $650 million to settle an Illinois class-action lawsuit against the company's use of facial recognition technology, according to a new court filing.

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"We are focused on settling as it is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter," a Facebook spokesperson told FOX Business.

Illinois' biometric privacy law allows residents to claim as much as $5,000 if companies use facial recognition for data without user consent.

Facebook used automatic photo recognition technology starting in 2015 so that when users uploaded photos depicting other users, the platform's photo-tagging tool would immediately show name suggestions in an effort to make the tagging process easier. The tech giant updated its facial recognition policies in September 2019 to require user consent.

Facebook sign-in page displayed on smartphone (iStock)

The company had originally agreed to settle the case for a record $550 million in January but the judge overseeing the case said it was not enough under the Illinois law, according to NPR.

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"It's $550 million. That's a lot. But the question is, is it really a lot?" California District Judge James Donato asked during June 4 hearing, according to NPR, adding, "They are taking what is effectively a 98.75 percent discount off of the amount that the Illinois legislature said might be due in this case if you proved up your case."

By settling for $650 million, users can expect to receive between $200 and $400 each after they file claims, the filing shows.

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Other tech giants have come under fire in Illinois for their use of facial recognition technology without user consent. Two Illinois residents filed lawsuits on July 14 against Microsoft, Google and Amazon for violating the biometric law.

iPhone user touching Facebook logo on screen (iStock)

"In its effort to improve its facial recognition technology, Defendant Microsoft violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act ... by, among other things, unlawfully collecting, obtaining, storing, using, possessing and profiting from the biometric identifiers and information of Plaintiffs," the complaint against Microsoft reads.

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The lawsuits and increased Facebook settlement amount come as debates flare against the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement without a suspect's consent. Companies including Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have stopped police use of their facial recognition tools amid growing concerns over potential racial bias. The decisions came after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died while in police custody.

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