Wiretap Claims Against Google Mostly Settled
SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - Just a single set of litigants remains after settlements whittled down a sprawling group of class actions over alleged Gmail data mining, Google lawyers said.
Privacy-policy updates in 2012 drew a tsunami of class actions from across the nation that accused Google of aggregating the information it collects from users of its various apps and platforms. The plaintiffs in those cases claimed that the new policy violates computer-fraud, eavesdropping and wiretap laws at both state and federal levels.
In California, for instance, lead plaintiffs Brad Scott and Todd Harrington said the web-based service scans emails for words and content, and intentionally intercepts messages between non-Gmail subscribers and subscribers. But Google had furiously argued against allowing any non-California plaintiffs to invoke the state's privacy laws in making their cases.
The claims were eventually combined before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Francisco as In re Google, Inc. - Gmail Litigation. Koh refused to dismiss the massive putative class action this past September because Gmail's interceptions fall outside the narrow "ordinary course of business" exceptions carved out of federal electronic-privacy laws.
A few months later, however, Koh found that Google's different terms and policies for the classes and subclasses made the matter impossible to litigate collectively.
With the case then broken into individual actions, and the 9th Circuit's refusal to certify the class, Google lawyers announced late Friday that all but one of the plaintiffs had agreed to dismiss the case.
"Stipulating plaintiffs and Google have each considered the uncertainties of further litigation, trial and potential appeals in this matter, the costs, risks and delays associated with the litigation process, the benefits of the proposed settlement, and the parties have entered into a settlement agreement to resolve their disputes," Google attorney Whitty Somvichian, of the firm Cooley LLP, and three of the plaintiffs' lawyers said in a joint filing.
Koh signed the stipulation almost immediately, and ordered court staff to close the file. The remaining plaintiff will proceed in the case now titled A.K. v. Google, with a jury trial slated to begin on Oct. 20.
Details of the settlement were not disclosed. The settling plaintiffs are represented by Sean Rommel of the firm Wyly-Rommel in Texarkana, Texas, and F. Jerome Tapley of Cory Watson Crowder & Degaris in Birmingham, Ala.