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Judge Approves Location Data Lawsuit Against Google

Google class action

In a major development for online privacy rights, tech giant Google has agreed to pay $62 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company improperly collected and stored location data from nearly 250 million U.S. mobile device users. The settlement, which was recently granted final approval by Judge Edward J. Davila of the U.S. District Court for Northern California, resolves claims that Google violated California’s constitutional privacy protections by tracking users’ locations even when they had disabled the “Location History” setting on their devices.

Motion to Dismiss Denied

The case, originally filed back in 2018, weathered two rounds of motions to dismiss before the parties reached an agreement in principle to settle in September 2022. Under the terms of the deal, Google will notify all users who have Location History enabled and provide an explanation of how the feature and its associated settings function.

Additionally, the company has committed to automatically deleting such data by default after 18 months for users who opt-in to collection, a policy it will maintain for at least three years.

21 Non-Profits Will Benefit

As part of the settlement, $62 million will be distributed among 21 nonprofit organizations dedicated to advancing data privacy interests. Judge Davila expressed confidence that these recipients will put the funds to good use in advocating for stronger privacy protections nationwide, ultimately benefiting the millions of class members covered by the settlement.

According to Bloomberg:

“The settlement class covers all users whose location data was collected while being opted out from January 1, 2014, through the notice date. As part of the settlement, Google will be obligated to notify all users with location history enabled, explaining how the feature and related settings work. The company is also required to maintain a policy for three years to automatically delete that data by default, no longer than 18 months after users opt-in to collection. Twenty-one nonprofit recipients will receive settlement funds “to further the data privacy interests” of class members.”

Digital Privacy Rights

The class counsel was awarded $18.6 million in attorneys’ fees along with over $150,000 for litigation costs. The class representatives will each receive a service award of $5,000 in recognition of their efforts.  The case, formally titled In re: Google Location History Litigation, serves as a reminder of the vital importance of digital privacy rights in our increasingly connected world.

As tech companies continue to collect ever-greater amounts of personal data, it falls to vigilant plaintiffs, committed advocates, and engaged courts to ensure that our fundamental right to privacy is not eroded. While the settlement represents a significant victory for consumers, the battle to protect individual privacy in the digital age is sure to continue.

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