Facebook has violated the privacy of its users millions of times over. For this reason, the company in the US state of Illinois must now pay 650 million US dollars in compensation. But comparatively little money reaches the individual user.

A long-running legal dispute

Facebook is alleged to have collected biometric data for facial recognition – without the knowledge of its users. In 2015, for example, the network earned itself a lawsuit from the Chicago district attorney’s office.

The accusation: With this practice, Facebook violated a privacy law passed in Illinois in 2008.

Facebook offers $550 million in compensation

In August 2019, Facebook then failed with its appeal against the class action. Facebook claimed to have always openly communicated its facial recognition practices. Users would have been able to turn it on or off at any time.

After the failure of the appeal, Facebook tried it once before with a settlement offer in January 2020. 550 million US dollars were at issue – but the responsible judge James Donato rejected the offer as insufficient.

650 million US dollars instead of 8 billion

After this rejection, the social network probably took another look into its cash caskets and found another 100 million US dollars.

A US federal court has now been satisfied with the final result of 650 million US dollars. With this sum, Facebook can compensate the 1.6 million users affected and Mark Zuckerberg can sleep soundly again.

After all, the legal dispute that has now been settled could have cost the company significantly more. The law on the protection of biometric data in Illinois provides for damages of 1,000 US dollars for each negligent breach and 5,000 US dollars for each intentional breach.

In a worst-case scenario, that would have been a crisp eight billion U.S. dollars.

Facebook gets off comparatively lightly

Judge Donato calls the settlement “one of the highest settlements ever for privacy violations,” according to AFP. However, there’s not really much in it for the individual.

By comparison, in 2020, the group posted revenue of just under $86 billion. The profit climbed to 29.15 billion US dollars.

If you compare these figures with the compensation of 650 million US dollars, it suddenly seems like peanuts. The compensation amounts to 0.75 percent of annual sales or around 2.2 percent of Group profits.

The amount paid to individual users could also be described as peanuts. Because what looks like a real chunk of money at first glance is probably just a drop in the bucket for the individual.

As AFP reports, the affected users will each receive $345.

Facebook plans facial recognition in smart glasses

However, the years-long legal dispute has apparently not spoiled Facebook’s fun with the technology. The company is currently considering using facial recognition in its smart glasses.

As Buzzfeed News reports, Vice President Andrew Bosworth is said to have told staff that Facebook is looking into the legal and privacy issues surrounding facial recognition for the wearable.

So there is a learning curve after all: First check the legal situation and then diligently collect and hoard biometric data.