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Meta scores biometric privacy lawsuit win over Facebook non-users

Instagram users step up to collect their share of BIPA settlement
Meta scores biometric privacy lawsuit win over Facebook non-users

A BIPA class action lawsuit against social media giant Meta has been quashed. The suit alleged that Meta Platforms Inc. collected the biometric information of Illinois residents who didn’t have Facebook accounts through its now-defunct Tag Suggestion feature, in violation of BIPA.

On Monday, a federal appeals court dismissed the lawsuit on semantic grounds. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that “face signatures” do not qualify as “biometric identifiers” under the statute’s definition. Face signatures are numerical sequences that represent a particular image of a face, created after software scans uploaded photos to detect faces.

The ruling agrees in principle with a lower district court’s summary judgment in favor of Meta, but disagrees on the legal grounds. According to the 20-page order (via Courthouse News), “the district court’s decision turned on the practical impossibility of Meta’s complying with BIPA if it had to obtain consent from everyone whose photo was uploaded to Facebook before it could employ Tag Suggestions. Because the plain text of BIPA applies to everyone whose biometric identifiers or information was held by Facebook, this conclusion was wrong.”

That said, the court went on to rule that face signatures are not biometric identifiers under BIPA. “Suided by BIPA’s statutory text, the panel concluded face signatures cannot identify and therefore are not biometric identifiers or information as defined by BIPA.”

Illinois’ biometric privacy law classifies a “biometric identifier” as “a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry.” Per the law, biometric identifiers do not include photographs.

Meta faces loss, begins paying out for Instagram privacy violations

KXLH reports that Meta has started shelling out money to anyone in Illinois who used Instagram between Aug. 10, 2015 and Aug. 16, 2023, following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging privacy law violations.

Anyone who used Instagram in Illinois was entitled to claim part of the $68.5 million settlement. But that 2016 business trip to Chicago you just remembered is no longer relevant: users had to submit a claim by September 27, 2023 to be included.

According to My Stateline, claimants have begun to receive settlement checks for $32.56.

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