Even after getting a big downgrade for free users
around a year ago, Google Photos has remained undoubtedly one of the search giant’s most useful tools on both Android and iOS and presumably one of the world’s most popular photo sharing and storage services.
Face grouping, for instance, is a fairly innocuous-looking feature that’s been around for a number of years, supposedly helping millions of Google Photos users bring a semblance of order to their snapshots… before costing the company a cool $100 million.
That’s right, Big G has agreed to cough up that hefty sum to settle a class action lawsuit
in Illinois out of court without explicitly admitting its guilt or very convincingly disputing the law-breaking accusations.
What did Google do wrong?
The Biometric Information Privacy Act
is the 2008-signed piece of legislation that Google was accused of essentially ignoring by “collecting and storing biometric data of individuals… without proper notice and consent.”
In a nutshell, Illinois residents should have been better informed that Google Photos scans and saves their faces, which of course, is kind of the whole point of the aforementioned “face grouping” functionality.
The contentious face grouping feature in action.
This works by, well, grouping together pics of the same person (or even animal), aiming to help users to “easily find old photos and memories” of themselves or their loved ones. Google
further points out in an official statement to The Verge
that “all this is only visible to you and you can easily turn off this functionality if you choose.”
Then there’s the consent question, which remains rather delicate when it comes to scanning, grouping, and storing photos with faces of other people than the app’s primary user.
How can you claim your compensation?
Well, the obvious first step is to live in Illinois, or rather to have been an Illinois resident at any point between May 1, 2015 and April 25, 2022. If you meet this key condition and you’re aware of having appeared in a photograph in Google Photos during your time as an Illinois resident, you can go right ahead and fill out the mail-in claim form here
You have until September 24 to submit said form (either online or by mail), after which all you need to do, at least in theory, is wait for the money to pour in.
While you will probably not get rich by becoming a class member in this settlement, the expectation
is that you’ll net anywhere between $200 and $400 depending on the final number of valid claims.
Although it’s currently unclear how the validity of a claim will actually be determined, it sure sounds like all Illinois residents with a Google Photos account or a close friend or family member with a Google Photos account could qualify for an easy payment of up to $400.
$400, mind you, covers four years of “premium” Google One
access with a whopping 2TB cloud storage included at the time of this writing, and if you’re really bothered by face grouping’s invasion of your privacy, you can always turn off the feature and keep the money or subscription active. Not bad for… around five minutes of work filling out a form with your personal info.