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In 2015, Google settled a class action privacy case against them for a meager $8.5 million. The case stemmed from the alleged sale of Google users' internet search terms to third parties without consent of the users. That settlement is just now being approved, again. This time by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The money has been tied up in appeals as none of the actual class members were ever going to see a dime. Instead, the court approved a cy pres settlement, wherein the bulk of the award would go to nonprofit organizations working to ensure online privacy for the public.
Cy Pres Hill of Beans
Despite being a multi-million dollar settlement, only the three class representatives and the attorneys stood to actual receive any money as a result of their participation in the case. Based upon the size of the class and the amount of the settlement, after attorneys' fees and costs, each class member would only be entitled to $0.04. This de minimis payment made the case a perfect candidate for a cy pres.
Naturally, some of the class members objected to the cy pres settlement on several grounds, which the Ninth Circuit rejected one after the next.
Cy Pres Shill
The objectors not only took issue with the very idea that the court would approve the cy pres settlement in the first place, but they also objected to whom the money would be given. Primarily, there were two distinct issues over the selected recipients. The first objection dealt with repeat recipients (those organizations that have received cy pres or other settlement funds from Google in the past) and the second dealt with the fact that three of the organizations were actually the alma maters of the prosecuting attorneys.
Unfortunately for the objectors, the court did not find their arguments convincing. It found no valid reason why being a repeat recipient of cy pres funds would render one ineligible for a future receipt of funds. Additionally, it found the alma mater argument so wholly without merit, that it stated the argument "can't be entertained with a straight-face."