In the News

“In Google Street View Digital Snooping Case, Judge Sees a ‘Paradigmatic’ Case,” The Recorder

February 28, 2020

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California opened the hearing by saying that he clearly thought that the plaintiffs had standing to sue. “I think there was injury, and I think that it’s an important vindication of an individual’s rights to be able to seek redress in a court for an injury, especially for an injury for privacy,” Breyer said.

The federal judge overseeing the long-running civil litigation over claims that Google’s Street View vehicles snooped on unencrypted WiFi networks at the turn of the last decade grappled with objections to a proposed $13 million class action settlement the company has proposed.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California called the matter before him “a paradigmatic case of injury and non-ascertainable damages” at a fairness hearing Friday over the proposed deal, a so-called cy pres settlement that would provide no direct payout to class members.

The proposed deal faced objection from a group of state attorneys general concerned about the lack of cash going to plaintiffs as well as an objector represented by class action watchdog Ted Frank of the Center for Class Action Fairness.

Breyer opened the hearing by saying that he clearly thought that the plaintiffs had standing to sue. “I think there was injury, and I think that it’s an important vindication of an individual’s rights to be able to seek redress in a court for an injury, especially for an injury for privacy,” Breyer said. Breyer held off ruling, saying he intended to lay out his thoughts in a forthcoming written opinion. But the judge spent much of the hearing probing counsel for the company and the class about issues raised by the deal’s critics.

Representing the proposed settlement class, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll’s Daniel Small said that there are an estimated 60 million class members—a number partially based on Google’s disclosure to the Canadian government that its Street View vehicles collected data from 6 million unencrypted commercial and residential wireless networks in that country, which has about a 10th of the population of the U.S. Small said that the proposed deal before Breyer would add at least two years to the injunctive relief, including internal privacy policy changes and additional web disclosures from Google, which state attorneys general secured in their own 2013 settlement with Google. 

The complete article can be viewed here