What Makes Illinois So Special?

Over 14 million Illinois residents have claims in the $650 Million Facebook 2020 Settlement. If you uploaded a picture to Facebook and lived in Illinois for 6 months in the past 9 years, you qualify. But hurry — the deadline for filing a claim is November 23, 2020.

Recently in September, privacy rights’ advocates and Illinois law firms received a massive win – Facebook settled to pay $650 million back to its Illinois users for failing to ask for consent while mapping and storing their facial templates. Illinois has some of the most stringent privacy laws in the country and Facebook had unknowingly broken the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

Back in 2008, Illinois became the first U.S. state to regulate the storage of biometric information such as a fingerprint or retina scan, asserting that companies need consent before cataloging that data. In the years that followed, the law saw no usage and it started to fade into the periphery, but in 2015 that changed. Facebook was sued for illegally storing Illinois users’ biometric data through their “Tag Suggestions” feature without their permission.

In 2010, Facebook rolled out a new “Tag Suggestions” ability which used saved facial templates to suggest friends to tag in users’ photos. Facial Templates are a form of biometric information. BIPA states that each negligible violation of the act costs the offender $1000; there were 14 million Facebook users associated with Illinois, Facebook had a $47 billion lawsuit on their doorstep.

Nearly all class actions settle before a trial, so the $47 billion figure was not realistic. In August, presiding Judge Donato rejected a settlement offer of $550 million, stating that “The Illinois Legislature said this is meant to be an expensive violation,” and asked both parties to go back to the drawing board. After adding another $100 million to the settlement offer, Judge Donato relented and accepted the offer. He ended by saying, “You are all fond of telling me this is a record-breaking settlement and that may be,” Judge Donato told both parties’ attorneys. “But I want to see a record-breaking claims rate as well.” With a settlement fought for and earned, we ask again: why have only less than 10% of claimants filed?

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