Google wins right to targeted advertising in dismissed suit

A U.S. district court claims the class action suit could not prove the companies truly damaged them by selling their information

Google may be coming under fire for spying on people’s email accounts, but that doesn’t mean the company is quite ready to stop making money off of users’ private information. After an Oct. 9 district court ruling in Delaware, it may be even easier for Google to track users however they’d like without repercussions.

U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson dismissed a class action lawsuit brought against Google and two web marketing companies that claimed the defendants had found ways around Microsoft and Apple’s attempts to block “cookies.” Cookies are tiny pieces of code that track users on the Internet and have increasingly been seen as an invasion of online privacy. The suit claimed Google had been circumventing cookie-blocking software in order to gain knowledge for targeted advertising.

Robinson claimed that Google, as well as online advertisers Vibrant Media and the Media Innovation Group, had indeed circumvented the browser’s setting and featured targeted advertising. The judge said, however, that the plaintiffs could not adequately show that they had been damaged by the companies collecting and selling their information.

According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), now-dismissed suit originally stemmed from a February 2012 report from Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer that said Google was circumventing Apple-made Safari’s ad blocker. This discovery resulted in the Federal Trade Commission suing Google for breaking promises to protect users’ privacy. Google later settled the suit for $22.5 million without admitting any wrongdoing.

Talking about why Google won this privacy case but is struggling in the gmail spying case, Mayer told the WSJ, “Courts are doing pretzel twists to slot modern electronic privacy issues into antiquated statutory schemes. Congress badly needs to update the nation’s privacy laws; we can’t leave the courts with so little guidance and expect consistent results.”

Contributing Author

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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