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Privacy groups criticize proposed $8.5 million Google settlement

Loek Essers | Aug. 26, 2013
Five U.S. privacy groups have opposed a proposed US$8.5 million settlement with Google in a class action lawsuit over search privacy, as it fails to require Google to change its business practices, they said.

In a joint letter sent to Judge Edward J. Davila on Thursday, they urge him not to accept the proposed settlement.

The main problem with the proposal is that it fails to require Google to change its business practices, they said.

"The only change brought about by the proposed settlement is a modification of Google's privacy policy to allow the company to continue the disputed practice," they wrote, adding that privacy notices are widely ineffective because users don't read them. If users read them, it requires considerable sophistication as well as a considerable amount of time. Also, reading a notice typically produces no practical benefit because the terms are pre-determined by the companies and may be changed at any time, the groups added.

"Thus, additional notice will provide no meaningful benefit to the class. To the contrary, the revised notice will essentially ratify the company's continuation of the practice that gave rise to this suit," they said.

The proposed settlement also fails to provide any monetary relief to the class, they wrote. Of the organizations that will benefit from the settlement, with the exception of the World Privacy Forum, none have the protection of privacy as a mission, they added.

"The absence of a benefit to the class combined with the proposed allocation of awards to institutions not aligned with the interests of class members is not accidental," the privacy groups wrote.

"Proposed class counsel, seeking to settle the matter and obtain their fees, have prioritized their own personal financial interests above the interests of the Class. It may serve their interests to have the preliminary settlement approved; it serves the putative Class members not all. For these reasons, the preliminary settlement agreement should be rejected," they added.

The plaintiffs asked Judge Davila to grant preliminary approval of the proposed class action settlement this Friday.

 

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