If you’re a Snapchat user in Illinois, you may be eligible to file a claim in a new multi-million dollar settlement in a class action lawsuit against the social media platform’s parent company.
According to the lawsuit, the social network is accused of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act by illegally collecting users’ biometric information, such as unique facial features — through the use of features such as “Lenses” and “Filters” — without their consent. It was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in May.
At the center of the allegations are Snapchat’s Lenses features, which allow users to take a “Snap” and then select a particular lens and customize their facial features with special effects, according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges that Lenses uses technology to perform a facial scan and “create, obtain and store” a user’s unique biometric identifiers.
The function obtained the plaintiffs’ biometric information without informed written consent every time it scanned their faces, the lawsuit alleges.
Illinois’ Biometric Privacy Act prohibits private sector companies and agencies from collecting biometrics from unsuspecting citizens in the state or online, regardless of where the company is located. Data cannot be sold, transferred or traded. Unlike other states, citizens can sue for alleged violations, leading to hundreds of David-and-Goliath legal battles against some of the world’s most powerful corporations.
If a company is found to have violated Illinois law, citizens can collect civil fines up to $5,000 per violation, compounded by the number of individuals affected and the number of days involved. There is no state regulatory agency involved in enforcement.
Recently, more than a million Facebook users in Illinois began receiving checks after a $650 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit alleging it violated residents’ rights by collecting and storing digital scans of their faces without permission. .
Microsoft, Amazon and Google are among the companies also accused of violations.
How much is the settlement for?
A $35 million settlement was reached in the case Monday, though that amount has yet to go through a final approval hearing, scheduled for November.
Snapchat Inc.’s Settlement was reached after a court ruled in favor of neither the company nor the plaintiffs, meaning the social media platform admits no blame.
“Snap continues to vehemently deny that Lenses violate BIPA, which is designed to require notice and consent before collecting biometric information used to identify people,” a Snap spokesperson told NBC 5 in a statement Monday.
“We value the privacy of our community and Snapchat lenses do not collect biometric data that can be used to identify a specific person or perform facial recognition. For example, lenses can be used to cover an eye or nose. identify as being part of a face, but cannot identify an eye or nose as belonging to a specific person, and even the limited data used to power Lenses is never sent to Snap’s servers – the data is abandoned never use the user’s mobile device. And while we are confident that Lenses do not violate BIPA, out of great caution and as a testament to our commitment to user privacy, earlier this year we issued an in-app consent statement to Snapchatters in Illinois rolled out.”
Are you eligible to make a claim?
According to the settlement website, any Illinois resident who has used Snapchat lenses or filters between November 17, 2015 and now is eligible to file a claim.
Since BIPA is an Illinois law, it only applies to residents of the state.
How do you submit a claim? When is the deadline?
The deadline for eligible residents to file their claims is currently Nov. 5, according to a website dedicated to the settlement.
Here’s how to submit one.