Court Gives Nod to Settlement in COVID-19 Tracing Software Class Action Against Google

An opinion by Magistrate Judge Nathaniel M. Cousins recently approved the non-monetary relief settlement between Google and plaintiffs who alleged that its COVID-19 contact tracing system unlawfully exposed confidential and personally identifying medical information. Under the terms of last week’s settlement, Google will make changes to its tracing system to provide more privacy and decrease the chance of data exposure.

The 2021 lawsuit stems from Google’s launch of an emergency notification (EN) system that aimed to track and trace cases of the virus then warn users after exposure. According to the complaint, there were flaws in Google’s software, leaving users’ private health information unprotected on Android device system logs to which Google and third-party app developers had access.

Prior to the settlement reached this May, the plaintiffs filed two complaints and responded to Google’s motion to dismiss.

The ten-page opinion specified that the injunctive relief related to the handling of Google’s EN system data and system logs includes previously-made software code changes. In addition, the court said that Google will implement a process designed to find and eliminate EN system data that could be found on Google databases. The company also promised to confirm its commitment to blocking third parties from determining a user’s COVID status, according to the opinion.

While Judge Cousins made no mention of a specific attorneys’ fee figure, the ruling said that plaintiffs’ counsel is likely to calculate their fee on a Lodestar basis, though Google will retain its right to contest the requested fee.

The decision concluded that the settlement was fair, reasonable, and adequate under applicable law and says that it satisfies the Northern District of California’s local rules. The final approval hearing is set for October 11.

The plaintiffs are represented by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and Google by Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.