Facebook To Pay $550 Million For Alleged Facial Recognition Tool Misuse

Facebook is set to pay $550 million in damages to users in Illinois who won a lawsuit against the social media giant’s use of facial recognition tools, the BBC reported.

The users argued that Facebook violated the state’s privacy laws.

Their lawyer, Jay Edelson, told The New York Times that anonymity is something that must be protected at all costs.

“From people who are passionate about gun rights to those who care about women’s reproductive issues, the right to participate in society anonymously is something that we cannot afford to lose.”

The social media giant’s controversial use of facial recognition technology began in 2010, when it implemented an automated tag suggestion tool for photos uploaded. The case was launched in 2015, and the lawsuit pushed through in 2018 when a federal judge ruled the case should go ahead as a class action or group case. Facebook repeatedly tried to stop the lawsuit, but it went through after both the appeals court and Supreme Court declined to review the social network’s appeal.

A Facebook spokesperson issued a statement to the BBC on why the company agreed to settle the case.

“We decided to pursue a settlement as it was in the best interests of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter.”

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The fine will come as a blow to Facebook which has sought to become more privacy focused after a series of data leak scandals have rocked its reputation.

Christopher Rossbach of investment bank J Stern & Co told BBC Facebook has been working hard to improve its protection of users’ privacy.

“This settlement represents the second major settlement from Facebook in six months. Protecting people’s information and privacy has become a top priority for it and it has more than 1,000 engineers working on privacy-related projects.”

But Illinois state law has shown that it isn’t afraid to flex its muscles to protect users anonymity – even when dealing with tech conglomerates as powerful as Facebook.

The lawsuit gives a clear warning to other tech giants who have been nervously watching to see how governments will respond to commercial use of facial recognition. Companies including Amazon and Clearview AI have been selling facial recognition technology software to law enforcement agencies to help them find criminal suspects. But civil rights groups such as The American Civil Liberties Union have been speaking out against this use of recognition technology, saying it could end people’s right to remain anonymous in public.

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