Facebook Illinois Settlement: How to Get a Payout in $650 Million Facial Recognition Class Action

Facebook users in Illinois whose biometrics were created or stored by the website after June 2011 may be eligible for payouts of up to $400.

Following the conclusion of a class action lawsuit that was ongoing for more than five years, the Mark Zuckeberg-led social media giant has now committed to a $650 million settlement fund, with affected users given until November 23 to file a claim.

Those can be submit digitally via the dedicated settlement website. Payments will be sent via check or electronically through Zelle, PayPal, or direct deposit.

Back in May 2016, a judge ruled three men could proceed with a class action suit filed in 2015 alleging that Facebook violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act by creating user face templates for a photo-tagging feature without warning

The strict law forbids firms from gathering or storing biometric data—such as face scans and fingerprint records—without giving notice and getting user consent.

When the tag feature is enabled, the social network uses face recognition technology to analyze photos and videos it believes a user is in and creates a template. The template is then used to recognize users as they appear in other photos or videos.

Class representatives Nimesh Patel, Adam Pezen, and Carlo Licata each claimed they had face templates created and stored by Facebook, breaking the state law. Facebook, which denied all allegations of wrongdoing, agreed to settle shortly before trial.

As a result, users who meet a specific set of criteria may now be eligible to get between $200 to $400 per person from the $650 million fund, which is being overseen by Hon. James Donato of the District Court for the Northern District of California.

That criteria was defined by the court as being Facebook users "located in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011."

To receive money under the settlement, claimants must have lived in Illinois for a period of at least 183 days, or 6 months, after June 7, 2011. According to the Chicago Tribune, eligible users will be notified via email and Facebook beginning today.

A website set up for applicants to file claims confirmed that Facebook agreed to pay out $650 million to settle the case, for which there was no official win or lose ruling.

While most of the money will go to those who submit valid claims, some will be used to pay for the cost of notifying people about the settlement, lawyers' fees, awards to the class representatives who helped to bring the suit and taxes, officials said.

As part of the settlement, Facebook has said it will disable the face recognition feature for class members. If those class members don't turn face recognition back on then the site said it will delete any existing face templates held on those users.

The settlement website said the payments will be made about two months after court approval, which is scheduled to take place on January 7 next year.

"The amount you receive may be less than or greater than this amount depending on the number of valid claims filed," a disclaimer on the court website said.

In addition, court officials have warned it could take time. The website said: "Even if the court approves the settlement, there may be appeals. It is always uncertain whether and when appeals can be resolved, and resolving them can take more than a year."

Facebook has been contacted for comment.

Facebook logo
In this photo illustration, the Facebook logo is displayed on a TV screen on September 09, 2019 in Paris, France. Facebook users in the state of Illinois whose biometrics were stored by the website after June 2011 could be eligible for payouts of up to $400. Chesnot/Getty