Why a Dead Kennedys Punk Isn't Buying Google's Privacy Deals

(Bloomberg) -- Google had its bad day in Washington but it’s not out of the mosh pit yet.

The Alphabet Inc. unit still has unresolved privacy lawsuits, including one from 2010 over the mining of Wi-Fi data from millions of private homes by its Street View mapping vehicles. The company is waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether businesses can continue to settle class-action suits by donating money to interest groups instead of providing direct compensation to those affected.

Such donations are common when it’s impractical to distribute small or even minuscule payouts to giant groups of consumers. But “East Bay” Ray Pepperell, the guitarist from the Dead Kennedys, and David Lowrey, the lead singer from Camper van Beethoven, say the internet behemoth has perverted the process to serve its own interests.

The rock and rollers have teamed up to try to convince the high court that Google has a “shadow” agenda when it funnels millions of dollars to nonprofit advocacy groups in the name of promoting privacy protection instead of paying cash directly to the victims of its intrusions. The problem, Pepperell and Lowrey say, is that groups Google likes to support, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, are “hostile” to copyright protection issues that matter to artists.

“It allows the company to secretly funnel money to a nonprofit (which is not reported as a corporate donation), obtain a charitable giving tax deduction for that portion of the class action settlement, and seed the public messaging landscape with reliable allies who support its anti-intellectual property protection campaigns,” they wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief in July.

The court this week received a flurry of filings from legal aid organizations and other groups supporting settlements structured with so-called cy pres awards as it prepares to hear arguments on Oct. 31.

In a brief filed Wednesday, EFF said the awards aren’t secret and the fact that it may share “certain viewpoints” with a donor doesn’t undermine the benefit of the donation for class members. The organization also said it doesn’t hesitate to criticize Google’s practices and that its positions are based on its own policies independent of any company from whom it receives cy pres funding.

Google declined to comment.

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