Illinois Facebook Users Can Now File Claims for Payments in $ 650 Million Dispute Settlement – NBC Chicago

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Following a $ 650 million settlement in a lawsuit against social media giant Facebook, Illinois residents who have accounts on the website can now file claims for payments of up to $ 200. at $ 400.

According to the law firm that filed the complaint, the claims are now accepted following a settlement between the plaintiffs and the social media website.

To see if you are eligible for payment under the class action settlement, visit this website

The lawsuit – one of more than 400 brought against tech companies large and small in the past five years, according to a law firm’s tally – alleged that Facebook had violated the strict biometric law of the Illinois Privacy Policy, which allows people to sue companies that fail to obtain consent before harvesting. consumer data, including facial and fingerprint scanning.

Thousands of Facebook users in Illinois may be eligible for payments as a result of the class action lawsuit. The law firms behind the lawsuit have set up a website where users can see if they are eligible for payments and can request those payments while waiting for eligibility verification.

To be eligible, applicants must have lived in Illinois for at least six months and be Facebook users for whom the website created and stored a facial recognition template after June 7, 2011.

If eligible, applicants could receive payments between $ 200 and $ 400 from the fund. This amount may vary depending on the number of valid claims filed by the November 23, 2020 deadline.

It is not clear at this time when the payments will be made.

Privacy advocates hail Illinois law as the country’s most powerful form of protection in the commercial use of this data, and it has outlived the ongoing efforts of the tech industry and other companies to weaken it.

Lawyers who focus on privacy law predict that Facebook’s settlement will spark a new round of lawsuits and make targets of existing ones more likely to settle. Illinois’ legal landscape could also shape privacy debates in other states and in Congress, particularly over whether individuals should have the right to sue for violations.

“We’re going to see a lot of voters say, ‘Why not me? ”Said Jay Edelson, a Chicago attorney whose firm sued Facebook for allegedly breaking Illinois law. “This regulation, it’s really going to make it clear that putting laws in place is the difference between people who have to go to court and get real relief, and otherwise get trampled by these tech companies.

Although the buying and selling of consumer data has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, Illinois law – the Biometric Information Privacy Act – predates Facebook’s iconic feature and was a reaction to the flop. from a single company.

Pay By Touch, a start-up that teamed up with grocery stores to offer fingerprint-based payments, had gone bankrupt and had to auction off its assets, including its user information database. Concerned about where this user data would end up, lawmakers in Illinois quickly passed a law in 2008 requiring companies to obtain consent before collecting biometric information and to create a policy specifying how this information will be kept and when it will be stored. will be destroyed.

It also gave Illinois residents the right to sue for $ 1,000 for negligent violations and $ 5,000 for intentional violations.

For years, “literally nothing has happened,” said John Fitzgerald, a Chicago lawyer and author of a book on the law due out this year. He could not find any records of a case filed before 2015.

Edelson’s firm and others that focus on class actions were the first, accusing Facebook of failing to meet the Illinois standard in multiple lawsuits filed in 2015. The three Illinois men who faced the class action lawsuit against Facebook said they were never told the site was The photo tagging system used facial recognition technology to analyze photos and then create and store ‘templates of face”.

A federal judge later consolidated the cases into a class action lawsuit on behalf of the Illinois Facebook users who were among the face models on file as of June 7, 2011.

Facebook only changed the technology last year. The tag suggestion tool has been replaced with a wider facial recognition setting, which is turned off by default.

Illinois law is the basis of two recent lawsuits against Clearview AI, a facial recognition company that collects images by scratching social media sites and other places, then sells access to its database. given to the police.

Facebook, Twitter, Venmo and YouTube have all demanded that Clearview stop harvesting their users’ images following the New York Times and Buzzfeed investigative reports.

While there are lawsuits in Illinois against other big tech companies, including Google, Snapchat and Shutterfly, the vast majority of cases are filed on behalf of employees who have been asked to use scanning systems. fingerprints to track their working hours and that blame employers or systems. “Creators for not having obtained their prior consent.

Illinois is one of three states that have laws governing the use of biometric data. But the other two, Texas and Washington, do not allow individual prosecutions, instead delegating law enforcement to their attorneys general.

The state chamber of commerce and tech industry groups have backed amendments to eliminate Illinois individual lawsuits or exempt timekeeping systems.

The Illinois law puts “an innovation litigation,” said Tyler Diers, Illinois and Midwest executive director of industry group TechNet, whose members include Apple, Facebook and Google.

“This case illustrates why consumer privacy law should empower state regulators to enforce rather than line the pockets of class action lawyers,” Diers said in a statement.

Faced with Illinois law, some companies are pulling out of the state. Sony, for example, refuses to sell its robot dog “aibo” to residents of Illinois and claims that the device’s ability to behave differently towards individuals depends on facial recognition technology.

Supporters of the law argue that it’s not difficult to comply – just tell consumers you plan to use biometrics and get their consent.

State Representative Ann Williams, Democrat of Chicago, said the ability to sue is essential for consumers facing global businesses that make billions of dollars a year.

“If the penalty is just a fine, it’s the cost of doing business for them,” Williams said. “A regulation like (the Facebook case), we are talking about real money that will go to consumers. ”

Lawyers who defend small businesses, however, argue the law should be restricted to allow the use of fingerprint scanners to track employee hours.

“Small and medium-sized businesses really don’t have the resources to defend these cases or pay a big settlement,” said Mary Smigielski, partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith and co-leader of the company’s biometrics-focused group. from Illinois. law.

The Facebook case crossed courtrooms in Illinois and California for nearly five years before a settlement was announced last month, days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the claims. arguments.

Edelson said he hoped the $ 650 million deal, which lawyers in the case described as a record amount for a privacy claim, will cause lawyers to refuse oversight of the negligible credit or cash payments that are more typical in agreements to resolve data privacy lawsuits.



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