Google Avoids Group Lawsuit Over Gmail Scanning

Freelance Technology Reporter for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

A US judge rules that disgruntled Gmail users cannot join forces to sue Google over its scanning of Gmail messages

Google had faced potential legal action from a group of Gmail users over its controversial scanning practices of Gmail messages.

But now disgruntled users will not be able to fight the search giant as a group in a class-action lawsuit. Instead, they’ll have to take Google on individually if they want to sue over the email scanning done by the company.

Court Ruling

That was the ruling from California US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose on 18 March, as Koh denied a request by prospective plaintiffs to file a class-action suit as a unified group, which would have given them more leverage to battle Google over the practice, according to a 19 March report by Bloomberg News.

Court-lawsuit-gavel-large“Email users claimed Google intercepted, read and mined the content of email messages for targeted advertising and to build user profiles,” the story reported. “Legal experts including Stanford Law School Professor Deborah Hensler said before yesterday’s ruling that while the plaintiffs faced difficulty joining forces, the case stood to potentially become the largest group lawsuit ever.

The amount at stake could have reached into the trillions of dollars if, as the plaintiffs argued, each person was eligible for damages of $100 (£61) a day for violations of federal wiretap law.

“Koh ruled that the proposed classes of people in the Google case were not “sufficiently cohesive,” and didn’t necessarily identify “whether the proposed class members consented to the alleged interceptions,” Bloomberg reported.

User Protection

A Google spokesman told Bloomberg in a statement that the company has “been upfront about Gmail’s automated processing, which allows us to provide security and spam protection, tailored ads, and other great features like Priority Inbox.”

The controversy in this case, however, may not be over for Google. The company previously defeated a similar bid for class-action status in a related case in San Rafael, California, but the plaintiffs then filed an amended version of their complaint in February 2014, according to the story.

Google continues to face government and citizen concerns over its data privacy policies around the globe, with no end in sight to the scenarios that are involved.

In January 2014, Google was hit with a$204,200 (£123,667) fine by France’s National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) in connection with changes Google made to its data policies in 2012 that continue to be in conflict with the French Data Protection Act, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The fine was the highest financial penalty assessed so far by the French data protection agency.

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Originally published on eWeek.

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