Google Pays $8.5 Million in Illegal Data Sharing Suit

Google will pay $8.5 million, most of it to nonprofit organizations, to settle a class action that claimed that it illegally divulged users’ search information to third parties, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila granted final approval to the settlement on March 31, finding that distributing the money to nonprofits instead of class members was appropriate.
Davila also found that the settlement was reasonable even though Google will not have to stop disclosing search queries.

The consolidated class action accused Google of routinely passing on private information through “referrer headers,” which provided the website the user was visiting with the URL of the referring page. The URL included the search terms typed in by the user.

Personal information passed on through these referrer headers could include users’ names, IP addresses, their confidential medical information, their race, or information about their religious beliefs and sexual orientation, according to the complaint.

Such transmissions to third parties could involve millions of search queries a day.

It was anticipated that the class would be consist of about 129 million people.

Under the settlement, Google will pay $8.5 million for distributions to cy pres recipients, attorney fees and costs, incentive awards to the named plaintiffs, and administration costs.

The nonprofit cypres recipients are Carnegie Mellon University, the World Privacy Forum, Chicago-Kent College of Law Center for Information, Society and Policy, the Stanford Center for Internet Society, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and the AARP Foundation.

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