Last month, Google agreed to pay $8.5 million into a settlement fund over a class-action lawsuit by two searchers who accused the company of transmitting their personal information to third parties without their consent or knowledge that the information was being shared. The final court approval of the proposed settlement was scheduled for today, but five US privacy groups have asked the court to reject the preliminary settlement agreement.
Electronic Privacy Information Center, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, Patient Privacy and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse wrote a joint letter to the court, stating Google’s proposed settlement agreement should not be accepted.
According to PCWorld, the proposed agreement by Google provides for a single settlement class, but that the $8.5 million will be paid to a small collection of relevant organizations, including the World Privacy Forum, Carnegie-Mellon, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and Stanford Center for Internet and Society.
Beyond the monetary settlement, PCWorld reports Google also, “Agreed to notify users as to its conduct so that users can make informed choices about whether and how to use Google search.”
In their letter, the five privacy groups claim, “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 [excluding the World Privacy Forum] is not accidental.”
The lawsuit claims Google was sending personal information residing in users’ search queries to third parties without gaining consent from users or notifying users that such information was being shared.
The privacy groups believe the settlement fails to make Google amend its business practices in the interest the site’s users, and that the proposed class counsel – the organizations wanting to settle the case and receive their fees – “Have prioritized their own personal financial interests above the interests of the Class.”