(PresidentialInsider.com)- On December 27, a US appeals court upheld Google’s settlement in the long-running class-action suit over Google illegally collecting Wi-Fi data from an estimated 60 million people with its Street View program.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument that Google’s agreement to pay $13 million to internet privacy advocacy groups was unfair because none of the money was going to the class members themselves.
Several groups filed class actions against Google in 2010 after the company admitted that its Street View vehicles had been inadvertently collecting sensitive data including emails, passwords, and documents from WiFi networks.
In 2013, the 9th Circuit rejected Google’s attempt to dismiss the class actions. And five years later, Google settled in a San Francisco federal court with a class of about 60 million people, agreeing to give $13 million to nine internet privacy groups including the ACLU and the Center for Digital Democracy. In 2020 the settlement was approved by US District Judge Charles Breyer.
But two class members and several state attorneys general objected to the settlement, arguing that the money should be distributed to class members rather than the advocacy groups.
Writing for the three-judge panel on December 27, 9th Circuit Judge Bridget Bade said identifying and directly paying all of the class members wasn’t feasible. Because of this, Bade wrote, sending the payments to advocacy groups coupled with Google’s promises to take actions to protect data was a fair alternative.
A separate concurring opinion also authored by Bade said the district court made the correct ruling in approving the settlement agreement. But, she wrote, there is a “compelling argument that class members receive no benefit at all from a settlement that extinguishes their claims without awarding them any damages” while directing the money to groups “they have likely never heard of or may even oppose.”
In short, the concurring opinion admits that while the district court was right, the objectors had a point.
The attorney for one of the objectors, Adam Schulman of the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute’s Center for Class Action Fairness said in light of Judge Bade’s concurrence, they were “contemplating their options for further review.”