It seemed that Facebook and the plaintiffs suing the social media company were on their way to a settlement of $550m for alleged violations of Illinois’ unique biometric privacy law, that was until the judge stepped in. As reported in a Law 360 piece, a federal judge in California “tore into Facebook’s proposed $550 million biometric privacy settlement…saying he won’t yet grant preliminary approval and has many questions about a deal that gives users just 1.25% of what they could be entitled to under the Prairie State’s biometric privacy law.” The article adds that “[d]uring a hearing U.S. District Judge James Donato acknowledged that $550 million is a lot of money, and if the social media giant coughed up the amount nobody would say, ‘The food was bad and the portions were small.'”
Judge Donato said the proposed settlement also has ‘no discussion whatsoever’ of the Illinois statute’s $5,000 enhancement for intentional or reckless violations, which he said appears to be a potentially viable claim in light of the $5 billion fine Facebook agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission last year for violations of a 2012 consent decree over its privacy practices.
Judge Donato added that the Illinois legislature said “loud and clear” that privacy rights are meant to be protected and there’s a high price for violations.
He added that “I am not willing to let those companies off the hook where they weren’t defendants, they weren’t subject to BIPA claim and [the class] is only getting $150,” he said. “That just doesn’t seem right to me.”
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More