This week, TikTok users in the US who created videos on the app before September 30, 2021 began receiving payments ranging from $27.84 ($43.41) to $167.04 ($260.44) after $92 (AU$143.44 million) in a data privacy class action lawsuit with a social media platform.
The biggest checks were sent to short-term and long-term residents of Illinois, where TikTok was being sued for violating the state’s strict biometric laws by collecting and injecting facial recognition data into its algorithms without the user’s consent.
Not everyone who uses TikTok in the US gets a check because there is currently no comparable federal law.
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But the lawsuit “claimed a variety of common law and other types of claims” in state and local courts to maximize the number of people who could receive the payout, Katrina Carroll, founding partner of Lynch Carpenter LLP and one of the co-defendants in the case. top prosecutors, CNBC Make It reports.
Under the agreement, up to 89 million people are eligible to file a claim.
This isn’t the first time TikTok has come under fire for exploiting user privacy: in 2019, it agreed to pay $5.7 million (AU$8.8 million) to settle FTC charges of illegally collecting and storing personal information from minors. .
The social media platform, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is just the latest tech business to pay fines for violating the Illinois biometric data law.
In May, 1.4 million current and former Illinois residents received checks and virtual payments worth up to $397 (AU$618) in a similar $650 million (AU$1,013) lawsuit against Facebook, which allegedly used facial recognition data without consent to encourage users to tag their friends in photos.
Most likely, new reviews on privacy claims are expected. Last month, a judge approved a $100 million (AU$155) settlement against Google, with 420,000 Illinois residents to receive about $150 (AU$233) each, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In August, some Snapchat users received a notice to file a lawsuit by November 5 to take part in a similar $35 million (AU$54) lawsuit against the company. Sandwich chain Pret A Manger and photography company Shutterfly have also settled similar lawsuits over the past 13 months.
At first glance, social media’s facial recognition features seem harmless, if not beneficial to users, but experts say they have deeper implications.
For example, New York-based software company Clearview AI claims to have extracted more than 20 billion images from sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Venmo to “help law enforcement accurately and quickly identify suspects, protect victims, and keep the public safe.” his website.
In a May court settlement in Illinois, Clearview agreed to stop selling its information to both individuals and private companies in the US. The company is also prohibited from conducting any business in Illinois for the next five years.
That same month, Clearview was fined £7.5m (AU$13.5m) by the UK privacy regulator. The French and Italian data protection agencies have also fined the company €20 million (AU$31 million) over the past year.
But experts remain concerned about both Clearview and other similar companies. Matthew Kugler, a professor of privacy law at Northwestern University, told CNBC Make It in May that such ventures could destroy our anonymity.
“When we walk down the street, everyone can see our face, but only some people can associate our face with our name,” Kugler said.
He added that easily accessible facial recognition data could make it easier to prosecute a local barista or endanger the lives and safety of victims of domestic violence, sex workers and people in witness protection programs.
In 2019, a study by Kugler found that 70% of its participants were unhappy with companies using facial recognition data to track people’s location and serve targeted ads.
Illinois law, as well as laws in Texas and Washington, help limit the collection of this data: for example, users in these states cannot access Meta’s “face filtering services” on Instagram or Facebook.
Similar laws should go into effect in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia next year.