US court rejects appeal over Google Street View class settlement
The technology giant had allegedly illegally collected personal data between 2007 and 2010
The United States Court of Appeals has rejected an appeal over a district court decision approving a class settlement between Google and 18 plaintiffs.
In a lawsuit, on behalf of around 60 million others, the plaintiffs alleged that Google had illegally collected personal data, including passwords, videos and photographs, over Wi-Fi networks from nearby Street View vehicles between 2007 and 2010.
The plaintiffs settled for five-year injunctive relief where Google had to, among other actions, destroy all such data and establish a $13 million fund.
Since the difficulties in claim verification meant it was not feasible to directly pay all class members, the settlement fund would be used for payments to nine Internet privacy advocacy organizations as the "next best" class of beneficiaries, apart from the named plaintiffs and attorneys.
The settlement was approved by the district court for the Northern District of California in 2020.
However, purported class member David Lowery appealed the decision. He argued that the remedy was inappropriate since absent class members were awarded no damages.
The appeals court affirmed the district court's findings of infeasibility. It noted that verifying the claims of just 18 plaintiffs had taken three years.
Lowery also argued that the settlement had violated the First Amendment prohibition on compelled speech since it distributed settlement funds to organizations whose class members, like himself, did not agree with.
However, the court rejected this stating that class members could "opt-out" of the settlement while still retaining their legal claims.
Lowery's contention that the class counsel and representatives breached their fiduciary duties by not "adequately protecting the interests of the class" also did not find favor with the court.
Justice Bridget Bade though said that there was a need to rethink that class members did not receive unique compensation or meaningful relief in many instances.