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.