Facebook pays $550m settlement over illegally-collected facial recognition data

Facebook has agreed to pay $550m to users in Illinois who sued it over its storing of biometric data without consent. This allowed the social network to automatically tag photographs—and to build a vast database of facial recognition data. It also contravenes the state's privacy laws, reports the BBC:

The case has been ongoing since 2015, and the settlement was announced in its quarterly earnings. It comes as facial recognition use by the police, and in public spaces, comes under intense scrutiny. The lawsuit against Facebook was given the go-ahead in 2018 when a federal judge ruled it could be heard as a class action (group) case. The appeals court disagreed with Facebook's attempts to stop this, and in January the Supreme Court also declined to review its appeal.

Facebook made the facial recognition feature opt-in a few months after the state Supreme Court left them on the hook.

Mike Isaac at The New York Times reports a "major victory" for privacy campaigners.

"The Illinois law has real teeth. It pretty much stopped Facebook in its tracks," said Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit group that filed a brief in the Facebook case. "Tech firms and other companies that collect biometric data must be very nervous right now."

Since the Illinois law was enacted in 2008, it has vexed companies that market voice assistants, doorbell cameras, photo labeling and other technology that may collect biometric details from people without their knowledge or consent.