A class action lawsuit claiming Google illicitly uses a facial-recognition program to sort pictures in Google Photos resulted in the search giant agreeing to a $100 million settlement this spring. Individuals whose likenesses appeared in a Google Photos album could be eligible for a chunk of the payout — but there are less than two weeks left before the deadline.
Plaintiffs in Rivera, et al. v. Google argue that Google Photos collects, stores and organizes pictures of residents as part of its Face Grouping feature “without proper notice and consent,” a violation of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. The 2008 state law requires companies that use facial recognition programs, fingerprint scans and other biometric tools on Illinois residents to get informed consent.
Google, which has denied any wrongdoing, agreed to the multi-million-dollar payout in May.
Eligible residents could get as much as $400, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, but the last day to file a claim is Sept. 24. Four days later, a final court hearing will determine whether the settlement and associated legal fees are “fair, reasonable, and adequate” before any payments are issued.
Here’s what you need to know about the Google Photo biometric privacy case, including who’s eligible for a payment, how much they could receive and when they might receive your money.
For more on class-action settlements, find out if you’re eligible for money frompayout, case or data-breach settlement.
What is Google accused of in the privacy case?
Google Photos’ Face Grouping tool lets users organize images of the same person via facial recognition algorithms.
But the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, requires companies that collect and store biometric data from Illinois residents, including distinctive details about a person’s face, to receive a written release.
They must also inform users of the specific purpose the data will serve, how long it’ll be stored and when it’ll be permanently destroyed, among other stipulations.
According to the lawsuit, Google failed to fulfill any of the BIPA requirements when it stored biometric identifiers from the faces of people in pictures housed 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 off this functionality if you choose.”
Google, which has agreed to make changes to how it collects biometric data, is just the latest company to come up against the Illinois law. In 2021, TikTok settled a BIPA suit for $92 million, while Facebook over allegations that its photo-tagging feature violated the statute.
Just this month, Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., agreed to a $35 million settlement to resolve BIPA claims.
Who’s eligible for a payment in the Google Photos biometric privacy settlement?
Class members must have resided in Illinois between May 1, 2015, and April 25, 2022, and appeared in a photograph stored on Google Photos in that time frame.
There are approximately 1.4 million Illinois residents eligible to file a claim, according to SEOHost.net, an SEO hosting provider.
What’s the deadline to submit a claim?
Valid claims can be submitted through Sept. 24. The deadline to opt out of or object to the settlement was Aug. 10.
How much money could I get from the Google settlement?
Eligible applicants will receive an equal portion of the $100 million settlement fund after the court awards legal fees and other expenses, which could be as much as 40% of the total.
The actual cash amount will depend on the number of valid claims submitted. According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, based on similar cases, individual claims could be between $200 and $400.
How do I submit a claim for the Google privacy settlement?
You must include your name and current or previous Illinois address and you must confirm you appeared in a photo stored on Google Photo between May 1, 2015, and April 24, 2022.
When would I get my payment?
A final approval hearing for the settlement is scheduled for Sept. 28, 2022. Class members should receive their payments within 90 days of the final approval being granted and any appeals being addressed.
“It is always uncertain whether and when appeals can be resolved, and resolving them can take time,” according to the settlement website. “No benefits will be provided until the Court has approved the settlement and any appeals have been resolved.”
Class members have a choice of receiving their payment via Venmo, Zelle, Paypal, prepaid digital Mastercard or physical check.
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