In re Facebook Biometric Info. Privacy Litig.
$650 Million Settlement: “Landmark” Recovery in Facebook Biometric Class Action Approved as a “Major Win” for Consumers in the Area of Digital Privacy
On February 26, 2021, the Honorable James Donato of the Northern District of California approved a “landmark” $650 million privacy class action settlement for a class of Illinois Facebook users in In re Facebook Biometric Info. Privacy Litig. The cutting-edge settlement resolved claims that Facebook used facial recognition technology to extract and store users’ biometric identifiers of up to six million users living in Illinois without the written consent required by the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) enacted in 2008.
Initially filed in 2015, the case brought into question Facebook’s use of facial recognition software to extract unique biometric identifiers (i.e., graphical representations of facial features, also known as facial geometry) from photographs uploaded to its online social network. Plaintiffs allege that Facebook extracts this information without disclosing its biometric collection practices, much less obtaining express written consent, in violation of BIPA.
After more than five years of hard-fought litigation with Robbins Geller and co-counsel defeating a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment along the way, the settlement not only provides significant funds to Illinois Facebook users, but it also requires the company to come into full compliance with BIPA.
“This record-breaking settlement demonstrates five years of tireless litigation, and shows the Firm’s resolve to hold Facebook accountable for violating the privacy rights of the class,” said Robbins Geller partner Shawn A. Williams. “We prevailed against Facebook’s efforts to curtail a class action that was headed to trial before negotiations resulted in the settlement.”
In granting final approval, Judge Donato praised Robbins Geller and its co-counsel, noting: “By any measure, the $650 million settlement in this biometric privacy class action is a landmark result. It is one [of] the largest settlements ever for a privacy violation, and it will put at least $345 into the hands of every class member interested in being compensated.” Judge Donato also noted that, “[o]verall, the settlement is a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”
“This is a landmark settlement not only because of its sheer size, but because the participation rate of class members shattered all predictive models. This case will deliver real money to real people at a time when they desperately need it,” said Robbins Geller partner Paul J. Geller.
In re Facebook Biometric Info. Privacy Litig., No. 3:15-cv-03747-JD (N.D. Cal.).