A significant legal victory was achieved by Google Inc. when a US judge made the decision of not combining various lawsuits into a single class action. These lawsuits accuse the search engine giant of violating privacy rights of hundreds of million users making use of its email service. In a decision that was announced on Tuesday evening in San Jose, California, US District Judge Lucy Koh stated that these claims were too dissimilar, including the ones that were filed by the users of the popular Gmail service of Google, to be grouped together into one. Furthermore, she also said that the broad-based class action could not be pursued by the plaintiffs again.
Google could have been exposed to billions of dollars in potential damages because of the class action and would simply have added pressurized the Mountain View, California-based company to make a settlement. Instead, email users will now have to sue in small groups or individually and this will lover the boosting and recoveries cost considerably. The case has been watched closely for providing guidance on how data might be collected by technology companies that also offer email services, which is then used for target advertising and boosting profitability and revenue.
Now comment was made by the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, Jerome Tapley and Sean Rommel. Similarly, Google did not give any comment regarding this decision by the judge. Google had been accused by Gmail users of violating state and federal privacy and also wiretapping laws when it scanned their messages for the purpose of compiling secret account profiles in order to do target advertising. Students at school using Gmail also made claims against the company and even people who don’t use Gmail, but communicate with those who do accused the firm of violating their privacy. Damages of $100 per day were sought by the lawsuit for every email user whose privacy was compromised.
However, Google has said that it has software that searches the content for keywords for the purpose of target advertising. The company’s efforts of dismissing the lawsuits had been rejected by Koh in September. The company had said that its activity was consented by the users implicitly because it was part of the email delivery procedure. But, in the latest decision, the judge said that a broad review was required regarding how the users came to know that such interceptions were happening before an assessment of consent from the users could be made.
She said that Gmail users could have learned about the company’s interceptions through a panoply of sources. She added that individualized inquiries would be made after determining the closures that every member was privy to. Koh was of the opinion that it was unfair if Google kept on litigating. Such motions have been opposed by Google for the past 2 and half years. The company is also facing litigation that accuses it of violating federal wiretapping laws when it accidentally collected personal data and emails during the development of its Street View mapping program.