What just happened? It's been almost seven years since a class-action lawsuit was launched against Facebook in Illinois that alleged the company violated citizens' rights by collecting and storing scans of their faces without their permission. Now, more than a million residents are receiving checks and deposits for $397 as part of a settlement payment.
The suit, filed in 2015, alleged that Facebook's retired photo-tagging feature violated Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which forbids the collection of identifiable biometric data without a person's explicit consent. This includes the likes of fingerprints, retina scans, and facial geometry.
Facebook's motion to dismiss the lawsuit was rejected in May 2016, and US District Judge James Donato ruled that it could proceed with class-action status in 2018. Despite Facebook succeeding in its request to move the case from Illinois to San Francisco, repeated further appeals to have it dismissed failed.
I just got paid 397 dollars by Facebook lol… thought it was a scam at first but I logged into paypal and the money is there. pic.twitter.com/YzWjeq0ghS— Weimar Silver Baron (@BankerWeimar) May 17, 2022
Facebook argued that no "actual" harm was caused by its actions and that BIPA can't apply because its servers aren't in Illinois. The company even tried to undo the class action lawsuit at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals without success.
Facebook eventually agreed to settle for $550 million. After a federal judge said this was too small, the amount was increased to $650 million, which, minus costs and $97.5 million in attorneys' fees, will be split among the 1.6 million people who signed on for the settlement.
Facebook's "Suggested Tags" feature, which used facial recognition to identify users in photos and suggested tagging them, was shut down by Meta last year, though it never closed the door on a possible future return for the tech in some form.
The settlements are being sent out via cheque and direct deposit. Engadget reports that the former's packaging doesn't make it appear like a $394 payment. "Honestly I almost threw mine away. It was sent in a brown envelope made of recycled paper. Felt just like a paper bag. I thought for sure it was junk mail," said a Reddit user.