Earlier this year, Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to Illinois users in a class-action settlement that alleged Facebook illegally used facial-recognition technology with its “tag suggestions” feature. It was the largest-ever settlement for a class-action suit alleging online privacy violations, but according to a federal judge, it still might not be enough.
“It’s $550 million. That’s a lot. But the question is, is it really a lot?” U.S. District Judge James Donato said. “I am not willing to let those companies off the hook in this case… The amount that the aggrieved people are going to get is $150. That just doesn’t seem right to me.”
Beyond just questioning the initial settlement figure, Donato also questioned whether the biometric data violations in Illinois may have breached an agreement the social media giant struck with the Federal Trade Commission in 2012. If that was the case, Facebook could face penalties of $5,000 per person. What’s more, he also said he was open to the argument that the Facebook-owned platforms WhatsApp and Instagram also violated Illinois’ strict privacy law.
While Facebook is going to fight this result tooth and nail, it’s reassuring that the legal system is willing to hold the company fully accountable for its actions. Hopefully the effects of the case in Illinois can be used as precedent to help everyone else.
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