- The $650 million settlement is one of the largest-ever from a privacy lawsuit in the US.
- The suit claimed Facebook violated an Illinois law prohibiting collection of biometric data without consent.
- About 1.6 million claimants will receive a payout of at least $345, the lawsuit said.
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A federal judge has approved a settlement in which Facebook will pay $650 million to users who sued the social media company over its tagging feature.
The settlement, which is one of the largest-ever from a privacy lawsuit, was a "landmark result," said US Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California in his Friday order. About 1.6 million people who joined the lawsuit will receive a payout of at least $345, the lawsuit said.
"Overall, the settlement is a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy," wrote Judge Donato. "The standing issue makes this settlement all the more valuable because Facebook and other big tech companies continue to fight the proposition that a statutory privacy violation is a genuine harm."
The class-action case was first filed in Illinois in 2015. Facebook users claimed the company had violated the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits a private entity from collecting, storing, or using biometric identifiers or information without prior notification and written consent.
The lawsuit claimed Facebook created and stored a face template for Illinois users starting in June, 2011, as part of its feature to promote tagging - or identifying - individuals in photos. "The class members alleged that Facebook collected and stored their biometric data - namely digital scans of their faces - without prior notice or consent," the settlement order said.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the finalization of the lawsuit. The social media giant had fought the suit, saying it had always disclosed its facial recognition technology. It also said users had the option to turn it off.
This isn't the first time Facebook has received pushback for its facial-recognition feature. In 2019, Facebook began requiring users to opt-in to use their facial-recognition tool, after the FTC fined the company $5 billion for its role in the Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, as previously reported by Insider.
Facebook originally tried to settle the Illinois lawsuit for $550 million, but the judge presiding over the case rejected that offer.