Google Photos feature leads to a $100M settlement payout over privacy law violation

Google Photos on a Pixel 6 Pro
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has agreed to a $100 million settlement that it will pay in violation of state law.
  • A feature in Google Photos was found to have violated Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
  • Valid claims are estimated to receive anywhere between $200 and $400 from the settlement.

Google has agreed to pay a $100 settlement after a lawsuit alleged that a feature in Google Photos violated state law. The feature in question is Face Grouping, which automatically identifies people in images using AI and organizes them into groups, so they're easier to find.

The feature apparently violated the Illinois Biometric Information Protection Act (BIPA), which requires that companies provide written policy over the biometric data collected, including "retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry." The policy must state how a company plans to use the data, how long it will be kept, and how it will be destroyed.

The lawsuit alleged that Google violated this law by failing to provide proper notice and consent. In addition to payment, the company will be required to inform users about Face Grouping in Google Photos. That said, the company maintains that the grouping feature is private.

"We're pleased to resolve this matter relating to specific laws in Illinois, and we remain committed to building easy-to-use controls for our users," a Google spokesperson told Android Central. "Google Photos can group similar faces to help you organize pictures of the same person so you can easily find old photos and memories. Of course, all this is only visible to you and you can easily turn off this functionality if you choose."

Users can submit a claim if they have appeared in a Google Photos image as an Illinois resident between May 1, 2015 and April 25, 2022. It's estimated that users can receive anywhere between $200 and $400 per claim, although it will depend on the number of valid claims. You have until September 24 to submit a claim.

Derrek Lee
Managing Editor

Derrek is the managing editor of Android Central, helping to guide the site's editorial content and direction to reach and resonate with readers, old and new, who are just as passionate about tech as we are. He's been obsessed with mobile technology since he was 12, when he discovered the Nokia N90, and his love of flip phones and new form factors continues to this day. As a fitness enthusiast, he has always been curious about the intersection of tech and fitness. When he's not working, he's probably working out.