Payouts in the $650 million Illinois Facebook class-action privacy settlement have been delayed after three users of the social media platform appealed a court decision approving $345 each for 1.6 million class members.
The objections concern attorneys’ fees and whether the settlement amount is large enough, setting the stage for an appeals process that could take some time.
“It’s going to be months,” said Paul Geller, a Florida-based attorney representing class members in the approved settlement.
In February, a California federal judge issued final approval of the landmark settlement in a six-year-old case alleging the social media giant’s use of facial tagging features without consent was prohibited under Illinois privacy law. Initially filed in Cook County Circuit Court, the case was moved to Chicago federal court and then California federal court, where it attained class-action status.
The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act is among the strictest such laws in the U.S., and requires companies to get permission before using technologies such as facial recognition to identify customers.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge James Donato called it one of the largest privacy settlements ever and a “major win for consumers,” with more than one in five eligible Illinois Facebook users signing up to participate in the settlement.
Out of the $650 million Facebook agreed to pay, Donato awarded $97.5 million in attorneys’ fees and about $915,000 in expenses.
Last week, three Illinois class members filed two separate appeals over the decision with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California. Opening briefs are scheduled for July, with responses set for August, according to court records.
Kendrick Jan, a San Diego attorney representing Dawn Frankfother and Cathy Flanagan in one of the appeals, raised concerns in an interview with the Tribune over the calculations used to determine the attorneys’ fees, but said the specific objections have not been finalized.
In the other objection, Illinois Facebook class member Kara Ross is seeking lower attorneys’ fees and a much bigger payout, according to Paul Camarena, her Chicago attorney.
The Illinois privacy law allows for $5,000 per person in damages for “intentional or reckless” violations and $1,000 for “negligent” violations of the statute.
“In my opinion, this violation was willful,” Camarena said Monday.
In his ruling, Donato said class members would face “significant hurdles” proving Facebook acted recklessly or negligently in violation of the law, and that their risks of losing the case at trial justified the lower amount.
While Geller said objectors play “an important role” in class actions by giving class members an opportunity to air concerns, he remains confident the lower court’s decision will be upheld, and the $345 checks will ultimately go out.
“The problem that the objectors face is that this is a fantastic result for the class,” Geller said. “So I don’t see a high likelihood of success for the objectors.”
The settlement class included about 6.9 million Facebook users in Illinois for whom the social network created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011. To qualify, Facebook users had to live in the state for at least six months over the last nine years.
Nearly 1.6 million claim forms were filed by the Nov. 23 deadline, representing about 22% of eligible users.