Snap reaches $35 million settlement in Illinois privacy lawsuit over lenses

Residents of Illinois who used lenses or filters after November 2015 are entitled to a payout.

Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Another social media company is paying up due to Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. Snap Inc. (the parent company of Snapchat) has reached a $35 million settlement in an Illinois class action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology. The lawsuit alleges that Snapchat violated the BIPA law by collecting and storing the biometric data of users who used its lenses and filters — without their consent. Illinois residents who resided in the state after November 17th, 2015 and used Snapchat’s popular AR features may be eligible for a cut of the settlement.

Snap Inc. is only the latest company to get penalized under BIPA — which requires companies to ask for consent before it can collect biometric data from users. The law is unique in that it allows private citizens to sue companies that may have violated the law. Earlier this year, Facebook reached a $650 settlement over its old photo-tagging system and Google agreed on a $100 million settlement over a feature that used facial recognition in Google Photos.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois residents who qualify could be eligible for payouts between $58 and $117. The settlement is still awaiting approval from a district court, which will happen in November. Illinois residents have until November 5th of this year to file a claim.

Snap Inc. has not admitted any wrongdoing, despite agreeing to the settlement. In a statement to the Tribune, a company spokesperson wrote that Snapchat issued an in-app consent notice to Illinois residents earlier this year out of caution. It also denied that the biometric data collected through its app can be used to identify specific people. “Lenses do not collect biometric data that can be used to identify a specific person, or engage in facial identification,” Snap said. “For example, Lenses can be used to identify an eye or a nose as being part of a face, but cannot identify an eye or a nose as belonging to any specific person.”