FCC Blocks Privacy Laws While Americans Ask For More

New FCC Chair Ajit Pai blocked the first of the internet privacy rules from going into effect, which required internet providers to protect consumers’ information and disclose data breaches.

Yahoo isn’t the only company that is too cavalier when it comes to your online privacy. In addition to companies left and right leaving your private information vulnerable to hackers, there are those that intentionally hand your personal details to third parties without your consent.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed legislation regulating how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) collect, share, and protect your online data. The rules require that companies like AT&T and Comcast ask you to “opt-in” before selling your personal details (like browsing history, location, and more) to advertisers. 

New FCC Chair Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, blocked the first of the internet privacy rules from going into effect last week. The rules required ISPs to protect consumers’ information and disclose data breaches. Critics of the privacy rules, including Pai, argued that they were confusing and unfair because they would have resulted in websites like Google and Facebook being treated differently than internet providers.

“All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, and the federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another,” one of Pai’s representatives said last week.

Putting “Corporate Interest Before Consumers”

It’s not about favoring one business over another. In response to Pai’s actions, Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said that we cannot let the FCC “put corporate interest before consumers.”

Supporters of the rules point out that Google and Facebook are free services—as creepy as they sometimes are, it isn’t surprising that users are “paying” in some way. If Americans are uncomfortable with how these websites use their information, they have the ability to cancel their accounts. Internet providers are the “gatekeepers” though; it’s much more difficult for consumers to opt out of these services.  

These arguments aside, any regulation is better than none. While the FCC can hold companies accountable for violating online privacy agreements and using deceptive practices, they can only step in once harm has been done—often, it’s too little too late.

Verizon Fined $1.35 Million for Supercookies

When it comes to deceptive tracking, Verizon may be one of the worst offenders.

In 2015, it was discovered that Verizon installed supercookies on users’ devices which not only tracked phone activity (like websites visited, links clicked, etc.), but were also impossible to remove. The company installed the supercookies without consumer consent to collect information for advertisers.

Verizon “rectified” the situation by directing users to MyVerizon.com to delete the supercookie but this installed yet another cookie. Last year, the company paid a $1.35 million fine to the FCC for deceiving users.

Verizon’s actions are especially discomforting since Pai has a former history with the company.

Majority of Americans Want More Control Over Their Privacy

In a time that is characterized by partisan feuding, one thing that Americans can all agree on is that protecting their online privacy is important, and that the federal government needs stronger laws to protect consumers.

According to a PEW study published in September 2016:

  • 68% of Americans believe current laws are not strong enough to protect online privacy.
  • 74% say it is very important that they are in control of who can get information about them. 
  • 91% agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control over how their information is collected and used by companies.

Tips for Maintaining Online Privacy

Unfortunately, without strict regulations consumers can only do so much to protect their information from advertisers and potential data breaches. However, you can enhance your privacy by following these steps wherever possible:

  • Change your passwords regularly (make sure they aren’t predictable) and use an app like LastPass to store them.
  • Check your browser’s privacy settings and disable location tracking, cookies, etc. as much as possible. (These are often hard to find. In Chrome, go to: Preferences→Settings→Advanced Settings→Content Settings.)
  • Regularly delete your web history and cookies. Note that this may remove your privacy settings on some platforms.
  • Browse privately using your browser’s incognito mode and use a search engine like DuckDuckGo that doesn’t track your searches.
  • Avoid linking sites, apps, and other accounts to Facebook or Google profiles—which track your activity across platforms—and log out of these accounts when you aren’t using them.
  • Check your app settings to monitor what types information they are collecting. For example, does your favorite game really need to access your contacts?
  • Assume you don’t have privacy and be mindful of what information you share online.

Our lives are so intertwined with the devices we use that this is just the tip of the iceberg for maintaining privacy. Check out The Guardian’s 21 tips for more.

If you were harmed by a data breach, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact ClassAction.com for a free, no-obligation legal review.

John Yanchunis Is Lead Counsel in Yahoo Data Breach Case

ClassAction.com attorney John A. Yanchunis will serve as Lead Counsel on the largest class action lawsuit in history—the Yahoo data breach that allegedly compromised the private data of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

In an order filed Thursday, February 9, 2017 in the Northern District of California, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh appointed John A. Yanchunis of Morgan & Morgan and ClassAction.com to serve as Lead Plaintiffs’ Counsel and Chair of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee.

Read the Order

Four firms filed motions to serve as lead counsel: Morgan & Morgan, Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP, and Susman Godfrey LLP. At a hearing in San Jose before Judge Koh made her decision, Mr. Yanchunis argued that a large firm of Morgan & Morgan’s stature—with more than 300 attorneys at its disposal—would be the best choice to take on a case of such magnitude.

At a press conference Saturday, Mr. Yanchunis said, “Morgan & Morgan is the biggest law firm of its type in the country. We have the legal talent and financial strength to take on anyone in this country.”

Mr. Yanchunis also noted that Morgan & Morgan (motto: “For the People”) only represents consumers, and never large companies.

Yahoo’s 2013 data breach (announced last year) compromised the data of roughly one billion users. A separate breach in 2014 compromised the data of 500 million users.

Mr. Yanchunis said Saturday that the lawsuit will represent everyone in the world whose data was breached.

Yanchunis Heads Five-Person Executive Committee

The other firms that filed motions to serve as lead counsel argued that the case was not as complex as it appeared, despite its mammoth size. They also claimed that a single firm should work the case, instead of the committee of firms helmed by Mr. Yanchunis.

Judge Koh thought they made “excellent points,” but ultimately disagreed.

Joining Mr. Yanchunis on the Executive Committee are Gayle Blatt of Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP, Stuart Davidson of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, Karen Riebel of Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP, and Ariana Tadler of Milberg LLP.

As Lead Counsel and the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee, Mr. Yanchunis and the abovementioned attorneys must review and record all billing records and “impose and enforce limits on the number of lawyers assigned to each task,” among other key duties.

Lawsuit Seeks Tighter Security, Hundreds of Millions in Damages

At the press conference, Mr. Yanchunis cited the long gap between the breaches and their announcement as one of the most concerning aspects of Yahoo’s actions.

“Those breaches either remained undetected or Yahoo failed to inform the public [for years].”

“What’s alarming about this is that the first breach occurred in 2014, but Yahoo did not announce it until September of 2016,” Mr. Yanchunis said. “The breach announced in December occurred in 2013. And yet, those breaches either remained undetected, or Yahoo failed to inform the public about the breaches.”

He also noted that most states have laws on the books requiring companies to inform consumers of data breaches within 30 days of discovering them.

Mr. Yanchunis said the lawsuit will seek stronger cybersecurity measures from Yahoo “to make sure that this never happens again.” Moreover, for those who suffered financial losses as a result of the breach, the lawsuit will seek damages.

Asked how much those damages might total, Mr. Yanchunis said it’s too early to say, but likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It will be extensive,” he said.

Experience with High-Profile Breaches Proved Crucial

In determining whom to name Lead Counsel for the largest class action ever, Judge Koh weighed the following chief criteria:

  • “Knowledge and experience in prosecuting complex litigation, including class actions, data breach, and/or privacy cases”
  • “Willingness and ability to commit to a time-consuming process”
  • “Ability to work cooperatively and efficiently with others”
  • “Access to sufficient resources to prosecute the litigation in a timely manner”
  • “Commitment to prioritizing the interests of the putative class”

The first criterion, experience, may have clinched the win for Mr. Yanchunis. He and Morgan & Morgan previously litigated two massive data breach cases—the Home Depot Inc. and Target Corp. cases. Those lawsuits were settled for $19 million (Home Depot) and $10 million (Target), respectively.

Now Mr. Yanchunis and his team will take on the biggest breach of all, and aim to hold Yahoo accountable for allegedly endangering the privacies and identities of hundreds of millions of people.

The Regulatory Battles Uber Faces in 2017

In 2016, Uber unleashed a host of innovations: self-driving cars, UberFreight, and more. But with innovation comes new regulations—something Uber consistently demonstrates it doesn’t have the patience for.

Some cities and states believe that by siding with Uber, they are standing for innovation, while others are taking a more cautious approach and are trying to rein in the company. It has created a complicated legal landscape that is still trying to catch up with the new technology.

Here are some of the major legal issues we think Uber will wrestle with in 2017.

State Battles Over Self-Driving Legislation

In November 2016, the Department of Transportation created the first Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, leaving the manufacturing of self-driving cars to companies, and the development of laws and regulations to the states.

Though the document warns against states creating inconsistent legislation, it also says that “states may wish to experiment with different policies and approaches.”

These “experiments” have already been tested during Uber’s self-driving car pilots. In Pittsburgh, the pilot has been relatively uneventful, compared to San Francisco, where the company received a cease-and-desist letter from the Attorney General within two days of the pilot’s launch.

Uber refused to obtain an autonomous vehicle testing permit from the state—which only costs $150.

Uber refused to obtain an autonomous vehicle testing permit from the state—which only costs $150—arguing that their vehicles still required human drivers and therefore did not fit within California’s definition of self-driving. Making matters worse, cameras captured their autonomous cars running red lights and making unsafe turns in bike lanes.

Though Uber dismissed traffic violations as human error from their operators, in the end they shipped their cars to Arizona.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey welcomed the company, saying, “While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses.”

In addition to Arizona, Uber may also test their autonomous vehicle technology in Michigan this year. Though there haven’t been any announcements, the state just legalized self-driving cars without licensed drivers, steering wheels or brakes.

Without clear, consistent oversight, though, the legal skirmishes and unsafe driving that we saw in California will likely continue. Increased federal regulation is likely to come, but it may favor Uber and other autonomous vehicle manufacturers: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Elon Musk are both on the President-elect’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

Transit Partnerships Demand Greater Transparency

In 2016, some city officials cut back on public transit spending and began offering residents vouchers for Uber rides instead. These programs are often referred to as “First Mile Last Mile” since they replace the first and last few stops of a route where there are the fewest passengers.

Is it wise to give Uber even more power?

For a city’s budget, it often makes financial sense to replace low-traffic bus routes with subsidized Uber rides. Florida cities like Pinellas Park and Altamonte Springs (which pays 20% for all Uber rides within city limits) have done this and claim it’s a success.

It’s a worrisome trend, though, and may negatively affect citizens who rely on public transportation the most. Citizens who don’t own smartphones or credit cards can’t order a ride. And the disabled would likely have a harder time getting around, as it’s still difficult for passengers to find Uber drivers who can accommodate wheelchairs and guide dogs.

Swapping out bus routes for Uber rides also shifts the power away from local authorities to a private company. In addition to replacing public sector jobs with poor contract jobs (see below), it also limits government access to ridership data, which Uber considers confidential information.

New York City is currently battling this issue. The city requires drivers to report pick-up locations and times, but they want to extend this to include drop-off locations and times. Officials argue the data would be used to identify incidents of driver fatigue, but Uber thinks it’s an invasion of privacy.

At the moment Uber and Lyft are subsidizing U.S. ridership, and one day they’re going to start profiting from it.”

While New York City’s argument certainly has some holes, Uber hasn’t proven to be the best privacy protector: Former employees revealed last year that workers tracked the locations of ex-partners and celebrities.

More importantly, is it wise to give Uber even more power? What happens if Uber decides to end these partnerships and local cities are left without efficient bus or train routes?

And, as Slate author Henry Grabar points out, “At the moment Uber and Lyft are subsidizing U.S. ridership, and one day they’re going to start profiting from it.”

Drivers Push to Be Employees, Not Contractors

Will 2017 finally settle Uber’s longest fight, over whether drivers are employees or contractors?

The company has maintained that by classifying drivers as contractors they are providing them with the flexibility drivers desire. “Flexibility” is a common term the company uses to defend why they deny drivers basic employee rights, like informing them when fares are reduced or ensuring that drivers are paid at least the minimum wage.

Two pending class action lawsuits representing drivers in California and Massachusetts will lend weight to the classification debate.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen rejected the $100 million settlement, saying that it was unfair to drivers.

In April 2016, Uber proposed a $100 million settlement that, if accepted, would have maintained drivers’ contractor status. But U.S. District Judge Edward Chen rejected the settlement, saying that it was unfair to drivers. (The two parties have since resumed negotiations.)

A new thorn for drivers is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold Uber’s arbitration agreements—an agreement that Judge Chen declared was “unconscionable.” The September 2016 decision ruled that drivers who joined Uber in 2013 and 2014 must settle their disputes in private arbitration, rather than class action lawsuits. This decision will likely disqualify thousands of drivers who were originally in Massachusetts and California’s employee misclassification suit.

ClassAction.com will continue to follow this debate to provide Uber drivers with the latest information on their worker classification and legal rights. If you are an Uber driver, contact us today with your legal questions.

VW Enters New Mobility Market With Moia Brand

Hoping to put the Dieselgate scandal in its rearview mirror, Volkswagen is focusing less on individual vehicle ownership and investing more in ride-hailing, autonomous driving, and electric cars.

MOIA’s focus is changing urban mobility.

These efforts will take place under Moia, a new standalone mobility services company.

Moia signals VW’s intent to compete with tech companies such as Google, Apple, and Uber as a provider of innovative transport solutions.

Volkswagen officially launched Moia at the Tech Crunch Disrupt technology event in London on December 5.

Moia (a Sanskrit word meaning “magic”) will operate as an independent brand under the VW umbrella, which also includes the brands Audi and Porsche.

Global Aspirations

 

The Moia brand is VW’s second step away from its traditional vehicle manufacturing business. In May, VW invested $300 million in Gett Inc., a ride-hailing company that operates in more than 100 cities.

Moia’s initial focus is on ride-hailing and on-demand pooling services. It also plans to introduce an electric car as soon as 2021. European pilot projects start in 2017, but Moia eyes an international market.

“Even though not everyone will still own a car in future, Moia can help make everyone a customer of our company in some way or another,” said Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller in a statement.

“We’re a startup with VW group’s resources and we have a global aspiration,” said Moia CEO Ole Harms. “Our sights are set on becoming one of the global top players for mobility services in the medium term.”

Automakers Facing Seismic Industry Changes

An industry that since its inception has focused on selling internal combustion vehicles to individual drivers is under technological assault.

Dieselgate may have been a blessing in disguise for Volkswagen.

Not only is the industry moving towards electric cars with automated features, it’s also facing a future in which drivers themselves are obsolete.

Companies like Uber and Lyft that provide on-demand ride hailing are obviating the need for personal vehicles. Under legal pressure to classify drivers as employees, Uber and Lyft may scrap drivers altogether and introduce driverless taxis. If they do, they’ll have competition from Google and Apple, which are investing heavily in driverless cars. Vehicles from Tesla, Volvo, Ford and other automakers already feature sophisticated automation systems and may be fully automated within a decade.

Volkswagen is a latecomer in this competitive, rapidly-changing, tech-driven environment. Daimler AG, for example, already has a car-sharing service as well as public-transit and cab hailing apps. General Motors is investing $500 million in Lyft and planning an on-demand network of self-driving cars.

While VW brand Audi offers car sharing in San Francisco and Hong Kong and plans to offer self-driving and fully electric cars in 2017 and 2018, overall VW lags behind the competition from an innovation standpoint.

Ironically, Dieselgate may have been a blessing in disguise for the world’s second-largest automaker. The scandal delivered a near-fatal blow to its “Clean Diesel” passenger car campaign, and VW now seeks a strategic revamp as a leaner, more efficient, and future-looking automotive company.

VW recently announced it would lay off 30,000 workers—5 percent of its global workforce—while adding 9,000 new technology positions.

Berlin-based Moia currently employs 50 workers and will have about 200 employees by the end of 2017. Volkswagen intends to generate a substantial share of its revenue from the startup by 2025.

ClassAction.com Attorneys File Data Breach Lawsuit Against Yahoo

Less than a week after Yahoo announced that a 2014 data breach had compromised the private information of 500 million users—and two months before Yahoo said that a separate 2013 breach had endangered the data of 1 billion usersClassAction.com attorneys filed a negligence lawsuit against the tech giant for failing to protect and inform consumers.

Lead plaintiff Edward McMahon filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of California on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, leaving the door open for a class action.

The complaint argues that Yahoo failed to safeguard its users’ personal information: names, email addresses, passwords, phone numbers, security questions and answers, etc.

Read the Complaint

It also says that Yahoo did not provide timely, accurate, or adequate notice of the data breach, and alleges breach of implied contract and violation of the California Unfair Competition Law, Business & Professions Code.

“It’s inconceivable that Yahoo either failed to detect the breach for two years,” said attorney John Yanchunis, “or it knew of the breach in 2014 and intentionally disregarded the privacy interests of consumers and breach notification laws by failing to inform consumers of the breach for two years.”

Yahoo Breach Could Have Major Aftershocks

Cyber-security experts say the Yahoo breach could trigger a chain reaction in which tens or even hundreds of thousands more accounts are hacked.

Matt Blaze, a security researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, tweeted that “data breaches on the scale of Yahoo are the security equivalent of ecological disasters.”

“Data breaches on the scale of Yahoo are the security equivalent of ecological disasters.”

These types of mega-breaches don’t just stop at the site that was breached, because the hackers now have vital information that can grant them access to other sites as well.

Hackers may use the passwords obtained in the Yahoo breach on other sites, gaining access to some of these accounts, too. Even if just 0.1% of the 500 million passwords work elsewhere, that would equal another 500,000 breaches.

And, as Mr. Yanchunis notes, while many Yahoo users may not actively use their breached Yahoo accounts, that does not mean they closed those accounts prior to 2014—which means their information was still there for the taking.

“The ramifications of this breach may be extremely devastating,” Mr. Yanchunis said.

How to Protect Yourself from Data Breaches

The complaint alleges that the lead plaintiff in the case, Edward McMahon, has noted suspicious activity on his Yahoo accounts, including not being able to access his accounts. He believes the hackers changed his passwords.

Mr. McMahon “has very important sensitive information in his emails that he… believes have been accessed,” according to the complaint.

If your personal information was compromised in the Yahoo data breach, the first thing you should do is change your passwords (Yahoo and others). Make sure they are all strong and unique. Other tips for protecting your data:

  • Enable multi-step verification whenever possible
  • Don’t recycle passwords across sites
  • Use apps like LastPass to store complex, hard-to-crack passwords
  • Check Have I Been Pwned? to determine if/when you’ve been hacked

If you have suffered financial or reputational harm as a result of a data breach, contact us immediately to explore your legal options. You may qualify for a data breach lawsuit.

The 3 Greatest Threats to Uber

For Uber, 2016 has been one bumpy ride.

From January to June, the company recorded losses of $1.2 billion. (In 2015, Uber lost $2 billion.)

In July, after two years and two billion dollars lost in China, Uber bowed out of the country, selling its operations there to hated rival Didi Chuxing.

On August 18, a judge rejected the $100 million settlement Uber had reached with drivers in California and Massachusetts over their independent contractor misclassification. Two weeks later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google would launch its own ride-sharing service via popular route-finding app Waze.

From January to June, Uber recorded losses of $1.2 billion.

Finally, in October, New York’s Department of Labor ruled that Uber drivers are employees—a ruling echoed later that month by three London judges.

Oof. Even for The Most Valuable Startup in the World, that has to hurt.

It would be hyperbole to say that Uber is in danger of failing. (A $62 billion valuation affords at least a little security.) But, unlike a year or even six months ago, one can now conceive of a world in which Uber falters.

Here are the three greatest threats to the ubiquitous ride-sharing service.

1. Lawsuits

Credit: Fusion.net
Credit: Fusion.net

Uber faced 50 federal lawsuits in 2015: more than Lyft, Instacart, Handy, and Airbnb combined. They outpaced these other gig economy companies in 2014, 2013, and 2012 as well.

They have fought more legal battles than billion-dollar startups Snapchat, Pinterest, WeWork, Dropbox, SpaceX, and Palantir (whatever that is). And the end is nowhere in sight.

In April 2016, a $100 million settlement was reached in two class action Uber lawsuits representing 385,000 drivers in California and Massachusetts.

Scores of drivers filed objections to the deal, which they considered unfair. The lead plaintiff, driver Doug O’Connor, fired his attorney. In a formal objection filed with the court, Mr. O’Connor said that the deal “is not in my interest or in the interest of any Uber driver.”

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen agreed. On August 18, 2016, he rejected the Uber settlement, saying it was not “fair, adequate, and reasonable” for drivers. (These cases will now go to arbitration.)

Judge Chen noted that the amount offered to drivers was just ten percent of what the Uber lawsuit claimed drivers were owed: $1 billion.

Dozens of Uber lawsuits are still pending in courts nationwide. In addition to monetary losses, Uber should dread the potential of a judge ruling that Uber misclassifies its employees as contractors.

By some accounts, Uber would owe its drivers $730 million in reimbursements if their drivers had employee rights.

2. Fines & Fees

In his decision, Judge Chen also emphasized that under the terms of the settlement Uber would pay just $1 million in state penalties—which could otherwise total more than $1 billion.

Two weeks later in Pennsylvania, a state regulator reinstated an $11.4 million fine against Uber for exactly these kinds of penalties. This fine arrived about six months after California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hammered Uber with a $7.6 million fine for shirking state regulations.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) says that Uber operated illegally in the state from February to August 2014, providing almost 123,000 rides without state approval. According to the PUC, Uber also obstructed the state’s investigation into its dealings.

Hold Uber Accountable

Two judges originally set the fine at $49.9 million, but the PUC reduced the total to $11.4 million—against the wishes of state officials.

Uber vowed to appeal, calling the fine “absurd.” But decisions like the PUC’s and CPUC’s often establish a precedent. What is to stop the other 48 states from issuing similar (or even higher) fines?

Moreover, as Uber knows all too well, global expansion is expensive. The startup has met resistance in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, and countless other countries. Adapting to each nation’s unique laws, waging lengthy legal sieges, and fighting taxi unions costs a lot of money.

In China, Uber tried for two years to make it work. After $2 billion in losses, they threw in the towel.

3. Google/Waze

In May, Google launched an exclusive carpooling service in the Bay Area. Now, through the Waze app, Google is expanding that soft opening so that anyone in San Francisco or Oakland with Waze can request a ride.

The service costs a maximum of just 54 cents per mile, far cheaper than Uber or Lyft. Though it is currently just a carpooling service, presumably Waze will broaden its offerings to include the kinds of on-demand rides made famous by Uber and Lyft.

And like Uber, Waze may not need drivers to do so.

Google’s Self-Driving Car Project (developed by Google X) has been in the works for a decade, with the aim of releasing these cars into the wild in 2020.

It is easy to envision, then, a scenario in which Google/Waze spends the next four years building a ridesharing infrastructure and customer base across the country, and then replaces at least some of its drivers with driverless cars—which would save it a bundle.

In the meantime, Google can learn from Uber’s mistakes and either classify its (human) drivers as employees or offer them similar reimbursements, tips, and other employee rights that Uber has failed to deliver. Because Uber has already waded through so much thorny legal territory (and continues to do so), Waze’s path should be much clearer and smoother.

Uber is the most valuable startup in the world, but Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. is The Most Valuable Company in the World, with a market value of $546.50 billion: nine times that of Uber.

Uber is a giant, but Google is a god. It has several advantages over Uber (money, branding, experience) and could very well take the startup down—or, more likely, over—in the long run.

Uber Settles Class Actions for $100 Million; Drivers Remain Contractors

Ride-hailing company Uber will pay $100 million to settle a pair of class action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts, but under the terms of the settlement drivers will remain independent contractors, not employees—a major win for Uber.

Under the settlement, Uber agrees to pay up to $100 million to 385,000 drivers in the two states, introduce a policy explaining the circumstances that will lead to drivers in these states being deactivated from the app, explain its decision to terminate drivers, give drivers more information about their individual rating and how it compares to their peers, and set up a driver’s association in both states. Drivers will also be permitted to post signs in their vehicles asking for tips. All of these concessions appease driver concerns.

“We believe the settlement we have been able to negotiate…provides significant benefits—both monetary and non-monetary—that will improve the work lives of the drivers and justifies this compromise result.”

Previously, Uber drivers could be deactivated from the app without much warning or recourse for declining a certain percentage of trips. As Tech Crunch notes, the new policy on accepting rides was likely key to the settlement, since requiring drivers to accept a certain percentage of trips could be seen as a job requirement appropriate for employees.

A new driver deactivation policy explains the circumstances in which drivers are denied access to Uber, and how (if at all) drivers can appeal a ban.

The attorney representing the Uber driver, Shannon Liss-Riordan, views the settlement as a victory for drivers. “We realize that some will be disappointed not to see this case go to trial,” Liss-Riordan said. “We believe the settlement we have been able to negotiate…provides significant benefits—both monetary and non-monetary—that will improve the work lives of the drivers and justifies this compromise result.”

Many experts, however, view Uber as coming out ahead in the settlement, because reclassifying drivers as employees would have forced Uber to pay for driver expenses and other job-based perks such as healthcare, costs that could have run into the billions of dollars and threatened the future prospects of the company’s high-margin business model.

The settlement must be approved by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen before it is binding.

While this particular deal applies only to drivers in California and Massachusetts, it should play a major role in determining the outcome of similar Uber litigation pending in other states.

Most Drivers Will Only Get $24 or Less From Settlement

$100 million sounds like a generous sum, but upon closer inspection, it turns out that the actual amount drivers receive could be as little as $10 in some cases.

To start with, the maximum value of the settlement is $100 million. Plaintiffs will receive an initial sum of $84 million, plus an additional $16 million if Uber goes public and its financial valuation increases 1.5x from its December 2015 valuation.

And according to MarketWatch, although some drivers may receive an $8,000 share of the settlement, most will get $24 or less, and some as little as $10. Payments will be calculated based on total miles driven, whether drivers signed an arbitration clause, whether they’re certified class members, and how many drivers actually file a claim. Named plaintiffs will receive an “enhancement” of up to $7,500.

Get Involved in an Uber Lawsuit

Uber class action lawsuits similar to those that just settled in California and Massachusetts are being filed nationwide. Drivers who think they aren’t being treated fairly by the tech company may be eligible to join an existing class action, or initiate one where they live.

Get answers to your questions about Uber lawsuits during a no-cost, no-obligation case review.

Free Case Review

Data Breaches Sharply On the Rise in 2016

It’s only April, but 227 data breaches have already exposed more than 6.2 million records this year, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). The number of breaches is 10% higher compared to this time last year, when there were 781 breaches exposing more than 169 million records.

A data breach occurs when an unauthorized person (hacker) gains access to confidential information for personal or political gain. Data breaches frequently lead to identity theft and financial losses. They have become increasingly common over the past several years, to the dismay of consumers.

Fight Back

The most notable breach this year (so far) involved fast food giant Wendy’s, which discovered malware on several locations’ systems. Many customers reported suspicious activity on the credit and debit cards they used at these locations. An Orlando man then filed a class action lawsuit against Wendy’s after his card was used by a thief for nearly $600 worth of purchases.

Krebs on Security reports that the financial losses sustained by credit unions from the Wendy’s breach will exceed that of the recent high-profile Target and Home Depot breaches. One credit union CEO hypothesized that the losses could be five to ten times higher than those incidents’.

Krebs also noted that one credit union is already halfway to its average annual total in fraud losses: another terrible omen for consumer security in 2016.

Over 100 Million Records Exposed Abroad

Data breaches are a growing crisis not just in the U.S. but abroad. Last week, a hacker exposed data on 50 million Turkish citizens, including their dates of birth, addresses, and the Turkish equivalent of social security numbers. He appears to have acted for political reasons, based on the following statements:

Who would have imagined that backwards ideologies, cronyism and rising religious extremism in Turkey would lead to a crumbling and vulnerable technical infrastructure? Do something about Erdogan! He is destroying your country beyond recognition.

The hacker also said “we” shouldn’t elect Donald Trump, who “sounds like he knows even less about running a country than Ergodan does,” suggesting the hacker is American.

This incident is one of the largest data breaches in history. The 50 million citizens account for more than half of Turkey’s entire population.

Incredibly, last week also saw a breach of the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (COMELEC), which exposed the data of 55 million voters. The “hacktivist” group Anonymous was supposedly responsible, as it warned the Filipino government to shore up its cyber-security in March.

Both the Turkish and Filipino governments downplayed the breaches, saying nothing of significance was stolen or revealed to the public.

Companies Pay Millions to Settle Data Breach Lawsuits

These data breaches can cost companies millions. When a company fails to exercise reasonable care in protecting their customers’ information, and a breach occurs, affected consumers may be able to file a class action suit against the company.

File a Lawsuit

For example, Home Depot agreed to pay $19.5 million to consumers after its data breach: $13 million to reimburse shoppers for losses and $6.5 million toward identity protection services. Theirs is just one of many multimillion-dollar settlements that have been reached after large-scale data breaches:

  • Sony (PlayStation network breach): $15 million
  • Target: $10 million
  • Sony (employee information breach): $8 million
  • Stanford University Hospital and Clinics: $4.1 million
  • AvMed Inc.: $3.1 million
  • Vendini: $3 million
  • Schnuck Markets: $2.1 million
  • LinkedIn: $1.25 million

In general, companies much prefer settling cases out of court versus going to trial. But that is especially true with data breach lawsuits, because there is almost no court precedent for these kinds of cases. Companies like Home Depot and Sony have no idea what would happen if they went to trial to fight a data breach suit, which is a scary prospect.

Neiman Marcus Ruling Bodes Well for Data Breach Suits

That fear was heightened last summer when a panel of judges ruled that the Neiman Marcus data breach lawsuit (which had previously been thrown out) could proceed. The panel determined that it was reasonably likely that the plaintiffs would suffer injuries from the theft of their personal and financial data.

It’s a significant ruling because it means that the potential for theft or financial loss is legitimate grounds for a suit, even if said theft or loss has yet to occur. In other words, the Neiman Marcus case bodes well for the plaintiffs in current and future data breach lawsuits.

The Best Firm for Data Breach Victims

Our attorneys are currently investigating exactly these kinds of lawsuits. At Morgan & Morgan, we are dedicated to helping consumers hold companies accountable for these invasive data breaches. We have a long and successful history of battling large corporations—and winning. Against Big Tobacco, we won $90 million in verdicts and settlements.

If your credit card information, social security number, or other private information was stolen as a result of a data breach, we would like to hear from you. For a free consultation, complete a free, no-obligation case review today.