Nearly 1.6 million Facebook users in the US state of Illinois are to receive a payment from the tech giant, after a judge approved a $650 million offer from the company to settle a class action lawsuit claiming it violated user privacy rights.

In a ruling, the judge stated the sum was “one the largest settlements ever for a privacy violation” and would “put at least $345 into the hands” of every class action participant, “a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy”.

The judge added the settlement is “all the more valuable because Facebook and other big tech companies continue to fight the proposition that a statutory privacy violation is a genuine harm”.

It all began in 2015, when Facebook was accused of storing users’ biometric data for a facial recognition-based photo-tagging feature “without prior notice or consent”, a violation of the state’s law.

Facebook’s original settlement offer of $550 million was rejected by the court as insufficient in June 2020, forcing the social media giant to up its proposal.

The judge ordered Facebook to make payments as soon as possible, a process the Chicago Tribune reported could begin within two months.