A judge in Illinois’ Cook County Circuit Court recently granted final approval of a $6.75 million class action settlement with California-based photo image-sharing company Shutterfly, Inc. on September 9, 2021. The settlement resolves allegations that the company violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) when it used a facial recognition technology feature called Face Grouping to collect, capture and store biometric information of every face and photograph uploaded to its site without the consent of both registered users and non-users. Vernita Miracle-Pond, a registered Shutterfly user, and Samantha Paraf, a non-user, who appeared in Shutterfly photographs, filed the claim in 2019 on behalf all Illinois citizens whose biometric information was collected by the company, seeking statutory damages including injunctive relief for the alleged BIPA violations.
The settlement agreement that was signed by parties in May of 2021, provides that Shutterfly will create a $6.75 million Settlement Fund for the benefit of class members who submit a valid claim by the September 14, 2021 deadline. The settlement class was defined as any Illinois resident who appeared in a photograph maintained by Shutterfly since June 11, 2014. Approximately $2.4 million in administrative costs, service awards, and attorneys’ fees will be also paid out of the Settlement Fund, and no portion of the fund will be returned to Shutterfly. According to court documents, no class members objected to these terms.
As part of the settlement, Shutterfly also agreed to change certain business practices in order to comply with BIPA. The company agreed to provide class members who are Shutterfly account holders in Illinois with direct notice of its data collection practices, including the purpose and length of time that the biometric data will be used. This notice will also enable these class members to consent to the use of the Face Grouping feature with the understanding that the feature will be deactivated for all users until consent is obtained, and any biometric data in Shutterfly’s possession will be deleted if consent is not received within 180 days. Shutterfly also agreed to publish a supplemental retention schedule and guidelines that will comply with BIPA.