Google agreed this spring to settle a $100 million class action lawsuit alleging the search giant illegally used a facial recognition program to sort images in Google Photos’ face grouping feature. If your image appeared in an image stored on Google Photos, you may be eligible for a good chunk of the payout – but time is running out to claim your share.
The plaintiffs in Rivera, et al. vs. Google alleges that Google Photos collects, stores and curates photos of residents as part of its face grouping feature “without proper notice and consent,” a violation of Illinois’ biometric information privacy law. The 2008 state law requires companies that use facial recognition programs, fingerprint scans and other biometric tools on Illinois residents to receive informed consent.
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Although Google denied any wrongdoing, it agreed to the multimillion-dollar payment in May.
Class members could get up to $400 each, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys, but the deadline to file a claim is September 24. Four days later, a final hearing will determine whether the settlement and related legal fees are “fair, reasonable and adequate” before any payment is issued.
Here’s what you need to know about Google Photo’s biometric privacy case, including who’s eligible for a payout, how much they might get, and when they might get your money.
To learn more about class action settlements, find out if you are eligible for money from Capital One’s $190 million payment SnapChat’s 35 million biometric data case or T-Mobile’s $350 million data breach resolution.
What is Google accused of in the privacy case?
Google Photos’ face grouping tool allows users to organize images of the same person through facial recognition algorithms.
But the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, requires companies that collect and store biometric data from Illinois residents, including distinguishing details about a person’s face, to receive a written release.
They must also inform users of the specific purpose of the data, how long it will be stored and when it will be permanently destroyed, among other stipulations.
According to the lawsuit, Google failed to meet any BIPA requirements when it stored biometric identifiers from people’s faces in images hosted in Photos.
In a statement to CNET, Google spokesperson José Castañeda said the face grouping feature “is only visible to you and you can easily turn this feature off if you wish.”
Google, which has agreed to make changes to the way it collects biometric data, is just the latest company to come up against Illinois law. In 2021, TikTok settled a BIPA lawsuit for $92 million, while Facebook disburses $650 million over allegations that its photo-tagging feature violated the law.
Just this month, Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., agreed to a $35 million settlement to resolve the BIPA claims.
Band members must have resided in Illinois between May 1, 2015 and April 25, 2022 and appeared in a photo stored on Google Photos during that time.
There are approximately 1.4 million Illinois residents eligible to file a claim, according to SEOHost.net, an SEO hosting provider.
What is the deadline for submitting a claim?
Valid applications can be submitted until September 24. The deadline for opting out or objecting to the settlement was August 10.
How much money could I get from the Google settlement?
Eligible plaintiffs will receive an equal portion of the $100 million settlement fund after the court awards legal fees and other expenses, which could be up to 40% of the total.
The actual cash amount will depend on the number of valid claims submitted. According to plaintiffs’ attorneys, based on similar cases, individual claims could be between $200 and $400.
Complaints can be submitted online or with this submission form.
You must include your name and current or previous Illinois address and you must confirm that you appeared in a photo stored on Google Photos between May 1, 2015 and April 24, 2022.
When will I receive my payment?
A final approval hearing for the settlement is scheduled for September 28, 2022. Class members are expected to receive their payments within 90 days of final approval granted and any appeals resolved.
“It is always uncertain if and when appeals can be resolved, and resolving them may take time,” according to the settlement’s website.
Band members have the choice of receiving payment via Venmo, Zelle, PayPal, prepaid digital Mastercard, or physical check.