In a case that pits Google against a class of around 60 million plaintiffs, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel signaled “a strong reluctance” to overturn the $13M settlement approved last March by a district court, according to a report in Courthouse News Service. Plaintiffs alleged private data was harvested by way of Google’s Street View vehicles, the ones that crawl the neighborhoods of the world taking pictures and producing the kind of detailed continuous photographic rendering that could hardly have been imagined even 30 years ago. Google also agreed to destroy data that had been collected and maintain websites “to educate consumers about wireless security and data encryption,” according to the Courthouse News article.
Under the terms of a Cy Pres settlement (where award money is distributed to charities or other entities, rather than to plaintiffs), $9 million will go to privacy rights groups, the rest to attorney fees and costs.
The district court judge who had approved the settlement, Judge Charles Breyer, reasoned that if the award went directly to plaintiffs, each class member, assuming all could be identified, would get about 22 cents. One of the 9th Circuit panel judges noted that it would almost certainly cost more than 20 cents per plaintiff to distribute that money, and she opined that class members might prefer to see it go to to a useful purpose. There was, however, significant opposition to the Cy Pres settlement, including from nine state attorneys general and a class of objectors, represented by an attorney with the Center for Class Action Fairness at the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute.