Mar 312014
 March 31, 2014  Posted by  Business, Court, Online, U.S.

Although privacy groups had opposed it, the proposed settlement in a class action suit against Google for leaking personal information in referrer headers as received the court’s preliminary approval..

The preliminary approval addresses one of the main objections to the settlement: that it doesn’t require Google to stop the practice, but only to notify users what it does, in advance. The court acknowledges that outcome isn’t optimal, but suggests that it is “reasonable,” because plaintiffs might have lost altogether if the case proceeded to trial:

But class action settlements do not need to embody the best result for preliminary approval. At this point, the court’s role is to determine whether the settlement terms fall within a reasonable range of possible settlements, with “proper deference to the private consensual decision of the parties” to reach an agreement rather than to continue litigating. Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1027; see also In re Tableware Antitrust Litig., 484 F. Supp. 2d 1078, 1079 (N.D. Cal. 2007). Considering all of the circumstances which led to a compromise here, the relief obtained for the class does fall within a reasonable range of possible settlements since it was entirely possible that nothing would be obtained if the case were dismissed or if Defendant received a favorable verdict at trial – two entirely possible scenarios that would have allowed Defendant to continue its practice without any further comment. Under this settlement, that results is avoided by providing a means for future users of Defendant’s website to know the disclosure practices before conducting a search.

The court also addressed the kind of objections to cy pres awards raised in the Lane v. Facebook settlement:

Furthermore, Plaintiffs have demonstrated how distributing settlement funds to the proposed cy pres recipients accounts for the nature of this suit, meets the objectives of the SCA claim,6 and furthers the interests of class members. All of the cy pres recipients were chosen only after they met certain qualifying criteria7 tailored to the claims in this case and submitted detailed proposals aimed at resolving issues in the area of Internet privacy. The executive summaries submitted after the hearing on this motion confirm that the proposed cy pres recipients certainly have the capabilities to carry out Plaintiffs’ goals. The court therefore finds, for the purposes of preliminary approval,8 that the proposed cy pres distribution “bears a substantial nexus to the interests of the class members,” as required by Lane. Id.

Mar 302014
 March 30, 2014  Posted by  Surveillance

Dieter Bohn reports:

New leaked NSA documents published in Der Spiegel and The Intercept appear to reveal more details about how that agency targeted a list of world leaders that is larger than previously thought. The documents, leaked to the publications by Edward Snowden, contain a list of 11 world leaders that have been targeted by a system known as Nymrod — however the document implies the actual number targeted was 122. Nymrod is reportedly a system designed to automatically extract citations (“cites”) out of a multiplicity of sources, including voice and computer communications. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is listed by name, as are more obvious targets like Syrian president Bashar Asad and former Ukranian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Various leaders apparently have “cites” automatically added to to a “Target Knowledge Database.”

Read more on The Verge.

Mar 292014
 March 29, 2014  Posted by  Featured News, Laws, U.S., Youth & Schools

Noting that “FERPA is not getting the job done,”  Daniel Solove and Paul Schwartz describe how legislation in California could set a new higher bar for student privacy:

What of educational privacy law in California? The core interest in this area of the state’s law is transparency. California law permits parents to access the school records of their children (see Cal. Ed. Code § 49069). It also requires schools to maintain a log of all individuals and organizations that request information from school records. Finally, California limits access to these logs and records to parents, school officials and certain kinds of governmental officials.

The next step in this privacy saga took place in February 2014 when California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg proposed the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA).