Is the Facebook biometric data privacy lawsuit in Illinois going to trial after all?
That $550 million that Facebook Inc. agreed to pay in January to settle claims that it violated its Illinois members’ biometric data privacy? Maybe forget it.
“It’s $550 million,” said U.S. District Court Judge James Donato of California, according to transcripts of a June 4 hearing about the settlement.
“That’s a lot. But the question is, is it really a lot?” asked Donato, who is presiding over the long-running and emotional class-action case. The transcripts were viewed and reported on by national radio broadcaster NPR.
Facebook is accused of using face scans in its tag recognition feature before getting the consent of its Illinois members, as required by the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
Donato’s question indicates that he feels the provisional settlement is an insignificant penalty compared to Facebook’s 2019 revenue of $70.7 billion.
He also seems to be asking why the plaintiffs should settle for about $150 each when state law allows for up to $1,000 per violation and $5,000 for each reckless or intentional violation.
Facebook executives have said they just want to get out of a five-year quagmire that they say is winnable in court but at perhaps too high a cost.
Multiplying the payout could be incentive enough for them to take the case to trial. The higher in the politicized court system that the case goes, the more likely it is to be decided by a pro-business judge.