Articles Tagged with wiretapping

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On November 30, Google was hit with yet one more class action lawsuit over Gmail’s method of scanning emails to deliver personalized advertising to its users. The named plaintiff in this case, Kristen Brinkman, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Like in the other cases, this case alleges that the way Google automatically scans the emails of its Gmail users to deliver personalized ads is unlawful. The complaint cites Pennsylvania’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §5701 as prohibiting the behavior in which Google allegedly engaged.

There is nothing unusual about this case as compared to any of the other related cases filed against Google (in California, Florida, and Illinois). The complaint lays out as the proposed class of plaintiffs “[a]ll natural persons located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who sent e-mails from a non-@gmail.com account e-mail address to an @gmail.com account e-mail address the owner of which was also located within Pennsylvania from within” the statute of limitations.”

Theoretically, there could be a similar state-wide class action lawsuit in every state with an applicable statute, as well as one with a nationwide class raising federal claims. Likely we will see more and more of these cases crop up across the country until the question is fully resolved.

Complaint in Brinkman v. Google, Inc.

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Yesterday, November 29, Brent Matthew Scott filed a class action lawsuit against Google, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The lawsuit alleges that through its Gmail product, Google violated state laws against wiretapping.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Google intercepts the plaintiff’s emails (and those of the entire class of plaintiffs) before they reach the intended recipients, in violation of the Florida Wiretap Act, codified at Florida Statute § 934.03.

Most of the lawsuits against Google that are brought under state and federal wiretapping laws have alleged that Gmail’s automatic scanning of emails for personalized ad placement violates state and federal law. However, the present lawsuit does not elaborate on the nature of Google’s alleged violations other than to say that the provider “intercepts” the emails.

As written, the complaint may not be sufficient to take the lawsuit very far. Under the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Ashcroft v. Iqbal and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, a complaint must make a “plausible” claim for relief to survive a motion to dismiss. To be plausible, a complaint must make allegations beyond mere legal conclusions; these conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. The bare assertions in the complaint as filed may fall short of this requirement, but the court may allow the plaintiff to amend the complaint and re-file it.

However, if this case shapes up like the other Gmail scanning cases, even a well-pleaded complaint may find difficulty winning the case on the merits, as explained in prior posts here on Onward.

Complaint in Scott v. Google, Inc.

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Several privacy lawsuits against Google, Inc. have been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware following a ruling by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). In In Re: Google Inc. Cookie Placement Consumer Privacy Litigation, the JPML found that “eight actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the District of Delaware will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.” In a footnote, the JPML also acknowledged the presence of twelve other related actions that may also be consolidated for adjudication. In total, there are at the time of writing 16 cases consolidated in this action. Continue reading →