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.