United States based social media company Facebook has reached an agreement to settle charges against it that it did not take consent of its users before collecting and storing biometric data of millions of users for in a deal worth $550 million.
On the other hand, the company’s co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg promised users, regulators, and investors that it would implement enhanced measures for protection for users so that it is able address the privacy concerns that have become one of the major criticisms against the social media company.
The issue of the settlement was revealed by Facebook’s chief financial officer while on a conference call to discuss the results of the fourth quarter as well as by lawyers for Facebook users. According to the lawyers, this settlement will be the largest settlement in cash in regards to a privacy lawsuit.
No wrongdoing was admitted by Facebook in the settlement which now has to be approved the court.
Last year, Facebook agreed to a settlement with the United States Federal Trade Commission in a deal worth $5 billion. That settlement was related to charges that the social media company had allowed harvesting of private data of about 87 millions of Facebook users of the US by British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
In the FTC settlement, Facebook had agreed to implement privacy controls that “set a new standard for our industry, going beyond anything that’s required by law today”, said Zuckerberg during the conference call.
Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg added: “want everyone to be in control of their privacy on Facebook.”
This settlement amount agreed to by Facebook dwarfs the previous record for a privacy settlement worth $380.5 million by Equifax Inc. last year in which the later had agreed ot pay the amount to settle against charges claims of consumers about a 2017 data breach which resulted in hacking of personal data of about 143 million US citizens.
The latest case for which the social media company has agreed to a settlement dates back to 2015 when charges that the company had violated the Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act by it using facial recognition technology to collect biometric data were leveled by users against the Menlo Park, California-based company.
The users had come to know f this after they got access to data through Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature where the social media users were able to identify friends on Facebook on the basis of pictures that had been uploaded previously.
This settlement increase expenses for Facebook for the fourth quarter even though there was still a 7 per cent growth in profits at $7.35 billion.
Arguing that the Illinois users had unique claims requiring individual lawsuits, a claim against the case was made by Facebook and demanded undoing of the class action which was turned down by last August by a federal appeals court.
“We expect Facebook to face similar legal battles at the state and federal levels,” Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi wrote after results were released.
(Adapted from JapanTimes.com)