Of course, the company inadvertently sent nearly $400 each to more than one and a half million people.
The first payments arrived this week to close a lawsuit in which a court found that Facebook had been illegally using users’ photos for years. The case dates back to 2015, when the class action lawsuit was filed in Illinois. Although the US still lacks strict and uniform data protection regulations at the federal level, Illinois leads the way in this regard, with local laws protecting users’ personal information just as carefully as the European General Data Protection Regulation.
The primary problem was the photo-tagging system used on the social networking site, which automatically attempted to identify the people in the photo for new photos uploaded to the platform, using a database based on previous photos of users. However, local regulations already in place at the time allowed companies to collect and use biometric identifiers only with users’ consent.
Although the class action was first filed in Illinois, the case ended up in Facebook’s district court, a district court in California. However, all of the company’s attempts, appeals and legal tricks proved futile, so seven years after the duke’s kidnapping, the parent company, now called Meta, entered into a $650 million deal.
This amount was available to any Illinois resident who uploaded a single photo of themselves to Facebook within a specified period of time, or was tagged as a participant in another user’s photo. It turns out that nearly 1.6 million people started receiving a $397 “Pain Award” this week for a fit. (An interesting side note is that there are also recipients who almost tossed the check in the mail because it was sent by Facebook in the cheapest possible envelope used for mass mailing.)
It’s not a country for scanners
In the United States, facial recognition and biometric data processing are also regulated in completely different ways in each member country. As mentioned, in this regard, Illinois is a particularly strict area, where only personal data can be accessed and processed with restrictions similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in force in the European Union.
Since images of state residents can only be used for commercial purposes with prior personal consent, some manufacturers do not even try to comply with this. It is a common practice to simply make these information-based features unavailable in products on a regional basis rather than a tedious procedure. But you could also mention Sony’s robot dog, for example. Aibo is not available in the state at all because he can identify his master with the help of a camera built into his head.
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