Jan 30, 2020

Facebook to pay $550 million over facial recognition tagging system

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook said on Wednesday it will pay $550 million in response to an Illinois-based class-action lawsuit against the facial recognition technology in its photo-labeling service, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The settlement is a sign that state-level regulations on facial recognition can extract real penalties from social media giants like Facebook, as more states introduce bills to regulate, ban or study the tech.

What's next: Facebook will be required to "obtain full consent from Illinois consumers before any collection of their biometric information takes place" under the terms of the settlement, according to a Wednesday press release from the firms representing Illinois Facebook users, who are plaintiffs in the case.

  • Each member of the lawsuit "is likely to be compensated $200 or more," according to the firms.

Details: Facebook’s Tag Suggestions feature uses face-matching software to scan users' photos and suggest names for each person pictured. The lawsuit accused Facebook of violating Illinois biometric privacy law by amassing users' facial data without their consent or explaining how long the data would be stored, the Times reports, noting that "Facebook has said the allegations have no merit."

  • The fine amounts to the largest-ever cash settlement resolving a privacy-related lawsuit, the firms representing Illinois Facebook users claimed on Wednesday.

What they're saying: Facebook’s chief financial officer David Wehner told investors in an earnings call that the $550 million settlement added to the site's increasing administrative and general costs, which have grown 87% from last year, according to the Times.

Go deeper: Facebook expands its use of facial recognition technology

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Facebook offers up to $5 for voice recordings to train speech recognition

Facebook logo. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is offering users up to $5 via PayPal to record themselves saying "Hey Portal" and then list the first names of no more than 10 Facebook friends, The Verge reports and Axios has confirmed.

The big picture: Facebook is pitching users a small amount of money in exchange for personal data to train its speech recognition tech after reports that it and other Big Tech companiesGoogle, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon — have listened to their users for that reason without consent.

Facebook's decade of unstoppable growth

Despite an onslaught of scrutiny and scandal over the past few years, Facebook closed out the second decade of the millennium stronger than ever.

The big picture: The tech giant brought in nearly $70 billion in revenue for 2019, up more than 25% from the year prior and up more than 1300% from 2012, the year it went public.

Go deeperArrowJan 30, 2020

Facebook finally gives researchers access to promised data

Illustration:Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Nearly two years after it promised to do so, Facebook has made a huge chunk of data available for research use in partnership with a new not-for-profit organization, Social Science One.

Why it matters: One way to better understand the impact that Facebook is having on society is to have academic experts analyze the data. The company, though, has been slow to release promised data.