Google Agrees To $23M Settlement Over Data Leakage Claims

Google has agreed to pay $23 million to settle a 13-year-old lawsuit alleging that the company's search engine leaked consumers' personal information by transmitting their search queries to publishers.

If accepted by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, the deal will put an end to a battle dating to 2010, when search users sued Google for allegedly disclosing their queries to outside publishers.

The users alleged that those queries sometimes included names and other identifying information. (Google no longer transmits search queries when people click on links in the search results.)

The proposed settlement allows an estimated 200 million U.S. web users who conducted Google searches between October 25, 2006 and September 30, 2013 to put in a claim for a portion of the settlement fund. 

Google previously attempted to resolve the lawsuit by agreeing to donate $5.3 million to six nonprofits and schools, and more than $2.1 million to the attorneys who brought the lawsuit. Ted Frank, founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness, challenged that deal, arguing that it didn't adequately compensate Google's users.

His challenge went up to the Supreme Court which returned the matter to Davila to decide a separate issue -- whether the allegations, if proven true, would show that Google caused a concrete harm to users by transmitting their search queries to publishers.

Davila ruled in 2020 that the users could proceed with several claims, including that Google violated the federal wiretap law and that it broke its privacy promises.

Google denies any wrongdoing. 

Google and the consumers told Davila in 2021 that they had reached a tentative settlement, but continued to negotiate over the details through most of last year, according to court papers filed Wednesday.

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