Walmart reaches $10M settlement in biometric privacy suit brought by employees

biometric palm prints

U.S. mega-retail chain Walmart is set to pay $10 million to as many as 21,677 current and former Illinois store employees for using biometric palm scanning devices to use and store biometric data without meeting the written consent requirements of Illinois law, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The company allegedly violated individuals’ privacy rights under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act which requires companies to get permission to collect biometric data, and publicly state the length of time data will be held. Walmart has said that all data collected has been deleted, or deletion has been requested, according to court records.

The company had argued, without success, that its system does not process or store biometric data.

Other companies such as Clearview AI, Google, Instagram and Facebook have also faced recent allegations under Illinois’ BIPA. Nearly 1.6 million Illinois Facebook users are in line to get about $350 each. Vendors only fall within the jurisdiction of BIPA if they have continuous and systematic contacts with Illinois (general jurisdiction), or if the claim is related to direct contacts with Illinois (specific jurisdiction).

“We’re pleased the court preliminarily approved the parties’ agreement to settle,” a representative for Walmart said in a statement.

The palm biometrics scanner was used to enable employees to access a cash recycler system between January 2014 and February 2018 in Walmart stores (April 2019 in Sam’s Club stores). Walmart said the cash systems could be accessed via a PIN code instead of the scanner, according to court records.

Ultimately the final sum will depend on how many people file claims, though the state’s settlement will amount to approximately $461.32 per person, according to court records, however attorneys for the employees may ask the court for up to a third of the $10 million per person.

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