Federal Appeals Court Upholds Google ‘Street View’ Settlement

(JustPatriots.com)- Roughly 60 million people had their data collected “inadvertently” by Google Maps’ Street View, yet they will receive no money as part of a $13 million settlement.

This week, a federal appeals court upheld the class action lawsuit settlement regarding Google illegally collecting Wifi data from millions of people across the country using the Street View program.

Using Street View, people can see various locations across the globe. The content that is on Street View is both posted by contributors and also collected by Google.

Back in 2010, various privacy advocacy groups sued Google after the big tech company collected various emails, passwords, sensitive messages and documents from people’s private Wifi networks. The estimates were that this breach affected up to 60 million people between 2008 and 2010.

Two prominent groups that were part of that lawsuit are the Center for Digital Democracy and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In 2018, Google came to a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs. In federal court in San Francisco, Google agreed to pay $13 million to the nine privacy groups that were involved in the class action lawsuit.

But, not everyone who was privy to the case agreed with the settlement arrangement. Among the objectors were two members of the class action suit as well as a few state attorneys general. Their objections revolved around the $13 million payments going to the organizations involved in the suit and not the individuals themselves.

Last year, Charles Breyer, a district judge, ultimately approved the settlement. In response, one of the class action objectors in the case, David Lowery, appealed that ruling up to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel of that appeals court rejected Lowery’s argument, though. Speaking on behalf of the panel, Judge Bridget Bade said it simply wasn’t feasible to distribute the $13 million in proceeds to the 60 million people who were allegedly affected by the “inadvertent” collection of data.

She argued that it wouldn’t be realistic to distribute the proceeds to that many people, and that it would be too costly to do so. In the ruling, Bade wrote:

“Because self-identification would be pure speculation, and any meaningful forensic verification of claims would be prohibitively cost and time-consuming, we affirm the district court’s finding that it was not feasible to verify class members’ claims as would be necessary to distribute funds directly to class members.”

This case involving Google has been ongoing for nearly 11 years now. Google appealed the initial decision in the case against them in 2013, but that challenge was struck down in courts.

Following that 2013 ruling, Jay Bybee, who wrote the opinion for the three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court, wrote:

” Wi-Fi communications do not qualify as a radio communication, or an electronic communication that was readily accessible to the general public, such that Google deserved an exemption from the Wiretap Act. Even if it is commonplace for members of the general public to connect to a neighbor’s unencrypted Wi-Fi network, members of the general public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network”