Snapchat Agrees to $35 Million Settlement with Illinois Residents
Written by: Gabriel Lopez, Esq.
A $35 million settlement between the residents of Illinois and Snapchat has been reached following a class action lawsuit over the collection of biometric data. According to the complaint filed on May 11, 2022, for alleged violations of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, the company allegedly collected biometric data through its “Lenses” and “Filters” features without obtaining user consent.
Snapchat’s Lenses feature allows users to take a “Snap” and then select a particular lens and modify their facial features with special effects. The lawsuit claims Lenses uses technology to create a face scan and “creates, obtains and stores” a user’s unique biometric identifiers. This, Plaintiffs alleged, violated the Biometric Information Privacy Act’s provisions preventing private companies from collecting biometric data from Illinois citizens without consent. As long as a private company interacts with Illinois residents, their biometric data cannot be sold, transferred, or traded without obtaining consent from the individual to whom the data pertains. The statute grants citizens the right to sue for alleged violations for up to $5,000 per violation per resident.
Ultimately, both parties agreed to settle the claims on June 29, 2022, following lengthy mediation discussions. Snapchat has agreed to pay a total of $35 million, pending judicial approval, to qualifying Illinois residents who utilized the “Lenses” feature from November 17, 2015, to the present. A final settlement approval hearing is expected to be scheduled for November 2022.
According to the terms of the settlement, no finding of fault has been entered against Snapchat, who denies any liability or wrongdoing.
This settlement is part of a growing body of class actions targeting private companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google for their collection and storage of digital facial scans without prior consumer consent. In addition to having security systems in place to prevent data breaches, businesses must be transparent about what data they are collecting from users and for what purpose. Facial manipulation technology on social media is a popular and attractive modern-day technology employed by many companies. However, companies must be careful to ensure they are fully disclosing to consumers the manners in which their facial likenesses are stored and utilized.