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Snapchat Agrees to Multi-Million Settlement in Illinois Lawsuit

Danielle Letenyei - Author
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Aug. 23 2022, Published 12:30 p.m. ET

If you’re an Illinois resident who has ever taken a Snapchat filter photo that makes you look like a bunny, alien, or old person, you may be entitled to get some money from the company. A recent Snapchat settlement in Illinois would provide $35 million for state residents who used the social media app’s lenses or filters between November 15, 2015, and now.

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Snap Inc., the parent company of the popular Snapchat social media app, agreed to the settlement in a class action lawsuit that accused it of violating Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). A final approval hearing is scheduled for November.

What is Illinois’ BIPA law?

The Illinois BIPA law, adopted in 2008, prohibits the unauthorized use of state residents’ biometric identifiers such as fingerprints, eye scans, voiceprints, and facial scans.

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Snapchat filters

In May, a class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which claimed Snapchat violated the BIPA by collecting users’ biometric information without their consent. At issue are users’ voiceprints and facial scans used for Snapchat’s lenses and filters.

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Snapchat lenses and filters use special effects to enable you to modify your facial features to do all sorts of silly things like add a mustache, look like a baby, or even turn you into Batman. You can then take a picture or video of yourself with the filter and send it to your friends.

The lawsuit claims that Snapchat’s use of facial recognition technology to scan a user's face and create a “detailed map of their facial features” constitutes biometric information and therefore requires user consent under Illinois’ BIPA, reports ClassAction.org.

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Snapchat denies it did anything wrong.

Although Snapchat agreed to the settlement, the company denies its lenses feature violates the BIPA. The limited data used for Snapchat lenses are never sent to Snapchat servers and remains on the user's mobile phone, the company said in a statement to Chicago’s NBC 5.

“While we are confident that Lenses do not violate BIPA, out of an abundance of caution and as a testament to our commitment to user privacy, earlier this year, we rolled out an in-app consent notice for Snapchatters in Illinois,” the company told NBC 5 in a statement.

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According to NBC 5, if Snapchat is found to have violated the Illinois BIPA law, residents who used the app could collect civil penalties up to $5,000 per violation compounded by the number of people affected and days involved.

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Facebook also got in trouble with Illinois’ BIPA law.

Snapchat isn’t the first social media network to get in trouble with Illinois’ BIPA law. In May, over 1 million Illinois residents who use Facebook started receiving $397 checks as part of a $650 million settlement with that social media network. A class action lawsuit against Facebook claims it violated the Illinois BIPA by creating and storing user face templates for its filters and avatars. Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has since removed the features on Facebook and Instagram accounts in Illinois.

How do you file a claim in the Snapchat settlement?

The settlement is only available to Illinois residents who used Snapchat lenses or filters between November 15, 2015, and today. The deadline to file a claim in the settlement is Nov. 5. Payments in the settlement will be made after the court gives final approval of the settlement. You can find out more information on the settlement website.

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