Helen Christophi reports:
The Ninth Circuit agreed Tuesday that Google can settle privacy claims by giving $8.5 million to six nonprofit privacy organizations instead of class members, despite ties between the organizations, Google and class counsel.
The three-judge appeals panel found that U.S. District Judge Edward Davila did not abuse his discretion by approving the cy pres settlement, almost half of which went to the alma maters of class counsel, and another chunk to organizations to which Google regularly donates or which received Google settlement funds in the past.
A divided federal appeals court has upheld a decision that allows Google to continue consumer privacy violations by means of a collusive settlement. Though the case concerns Google’s illegal disclosure of personal data from 129 million consumers, the settlement fails to compensate those consumers, does nothing to change Google’s business practices, and diverts funds to organizations that don’t protect consumer privacy. The dissenting judge wrote that the settlement “raises a red flag” because “47% of the settlement fund is being donated to the alma maters of class counsel.” EPIC twice urged the lower court to reject the settlement, arguing that it did nothing for class members and would allow Google to “continue to engage in the privacy-invading practice.” EPIC has long urged courts to reject collusive settlements and has proposed objective criteria for courts to follow in class action cases.