Facebook offers $650M settlement in facial recognition suit

The social media giant has upped the offer in a long-running class-action suit

CeBIT Technology Trade Fair 2018
The Facebook logo is displayed at the 2018 CeBIT technology trade fair on June 12, 2018 in Hanover, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

Facebook is ready to settle. That’s what lawyers for the social media site are saying with their latest offer to settle a class-action lawsuit based on what plaintiffs say is an abuse of their facial recognition system.

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Three Illinois residents sued the corporation under the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act which prohibits facial scanning for data without the subject’s written consent, according to The Hill.

The current settlement is $100M more than the last offer.

In a statement, Facebook said: “We are focused on settling as it is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter.”

Although the settlement amount seems large, it was rejected as paltry by California U.S. District Judge James Donato, according to NPR. Affected plaintiffs in Illinois would only receive $150 to $300 in the initial offer.

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The Facebook app logo is displayed on an iPad next to a picture of the Facebook logo on an iPhone on August 3, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

“They are taking what is effectively a 98.75 percent discount,” Donato said, “off of the amount that the Illinois legislature said might be due in this case if you proved up your case.”

Illinois’ Biometric Privacy law is one of the toughest in the nation. As it relates to the Facebook case, it is the technology Facebook uses for “tag suggestions” so that Facebook friends can tag each other in photos.

Biometric technology has come under fire in recent years given its increased use in law enforcement. The privacy issues it brings forth are not considered to be worth potential abuses. Amazon and Microsoft both agreed to stop selling the systems to law enforcement.

IBM announced earlier this year that they would no longer research, develop or sell the technology, according to The Verge.

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“IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any [facial recognition] technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency,” IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said in a letter to Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

“We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.”

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