Check your bank accounts this month. A settlement payment from Google, regarding a privacy hole in its now-defunct Google+ social network, may be winging its way to you. All $2.15 of it.
The vulnerability in question was in the Google+ People API. It could have been exploited by third-party apps to swipe people’s personal information, such as their names, email addresses, genders, and ages, even if this data wasn't publicly visible.
At first it was thought 438 apps could have siphoned off the records from up to 500,000 users. It was later discovered that actually a whopping 52.5 million accounts were at risk. It's believed no data was actually stolen by apps.
Crucially, Google had quietly patched the bug without telling anyone, hoping to have swept the matter under the rug. However, after the debacle was revealed by the Wall Street Journal, people started suing the search giant. The lawsuits were merged into one big class-action case that Google decided to settle to make it all go away.
In October 2018, the internet giant announced it was pulling the plug on its beleaguered Google+ in the aftermath of what was seen as a security cover-up. The mega-corp maintains it did nothing wrong and no one was actually harmed.
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Some 1,720,029 netizens applied by an October deadline to receive a share of the settlement, and they will now receive an incredible $2.15 each. The four people who brought the legal challenge in the first place will get up to $1,500 each for their public service.
That means just under $3.8m will cover the plaintiffs' lawyer fees – which aren't allowed to exceed $1.875m – as well as admin costs and cy pres donations. Google isn't allowed to take back any leftovers.
As the class-action suit's website stated this week:
On August 2, 2021, we will begin to electronically transmit settlement payments. We anticipate that all payments will be completed by August 14, 2021. Pursuant to Section 3 of the Settlement Agreement, each Settlement Class Member was entitled to submit no more than one Claim for a Settlement Payment and all payments are to be made electronically through ACH or Paypal. Each of the 1,720,029 Settlement Class Members who submitted valid claims will be entitled to a settlement award payment of $2.15.
The Register has asked Google, which made $4.6m profit an hour last year, for any further comment. ®