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Judge says non-Gmail users can expect to face hurdles to obtaining class action status

Plaintiffs initially hoped to allow all email users to join against the search provider

As the number one ranking website in the world, and with an average of 20 page views per person per day, Google is the undisputed king of the Internet, and “uneasy hangs the head that wears the crown.” 

From privacy assertions related to pictures taken for “Google Street View” to patent litigation brought by competitors, Google is also the undisputed king of Internet litigation. But at least one of those pending suits may soon lighten the bulk of Google’s crown, with a U.S. Judge saying Thursday that plaintiffs seeking class certification for a suit targeting Google’s email scanning practices should expect major hurdles.

The initial complaint was filed by a group of nine plaintiffs and asserted that Google’s practice of scanning Gmail messages to provide targeted advertisements violated federal anti-wiretapping and privacy laws. The group seeks to obtain class action status for the case, increasing the amount of money they could recoup, and potentially the way that Internet companies sell ads and services.

However, with representation from both Gmail and non-Gmail users the push for class action status may be unlikely to gain traction. But during a Feb. 27 Hearing Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif. stated that she foresaw a “huge hurdle” to showing that non-Gmail users should be allowed to participate in any such class action lawsuit.

Google has says that collecting the names of all of the non-Gmail users that it has on file, and contacting them individually would be nearly impossible, arguing that this process alone would make a class action unreasonable. In May of 2013 Google said that, “all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing ... Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter.”

No formal ruling has been released as of yet, and Reuters reports that court documents provided by both sides have yet to be made public.


For more on Google’s legal history, check out these stories:

Nokia could take on Google for mapping patents

Google asks to have U.K. breach of privacy suit dismissed

Former Google Executive to lead U.S. Patent Office

Executive Editor

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Chris DiMarco

Chris DiMarco, Executive Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, has a background in multimedia production with previous involvement in projects in which he developed and created content...

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