Google’s lawyers are taking a vacation next week now that two big lawsuits are off the table. Yesterday, Google settled a 7-year lawsuit with Viacom over copyright issues. Today, a judge tossed out a class action suit involving privacy and Gmail.
Privacy and Gmail, you say? Excuse me while I throw a Jumbo Shrimp on the barbie.
The issue stems from Gmails habit of scanning your mail in order to send targeted advertising. . . I mean. . . protect you from spam. Gmail users said that this was an invasion of privacy so a small group tried to file a class action suit on behalf of a larger body of users.
According to Bloomberg, a win could have resulted in damages of $100 a day per person for violating federal wiretap law.
Let’s be clear here. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh didn’t dismiss the case because it isn’t a legitimate complaint. She simply ruled that all of the injured parties can’t be represented by a single lawsuit because it’s unclear whether or not the individuals gave their consent. Therefore “consent must be litigated on an individual, rather than class-wide basis.”
What that means is, if you feel strongly that Google violated your privacy you can still sue but you’re going to have to pay for the lawyers out of your own pocket.
The judge did give Google a firm talking to in regard to their policy notifications which she called “vague at best, and misleading, at worst.”
It doesn’t help that back in 2010, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said in a public forum, “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.” To be fair, he was responding to a comment about a futuristic implant that will keep us all connected to the internet 24/7. (Like we’re not close to that already!)
That concept came from a 2010 article in The Atlantic which ended with Hal Varian of Google saying, “Although there are people always working on user interfaces, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone was thinking about it. There are people working on things that display text on your glasses.”
How far we’ve come in four, short years.
Getting back to the lawsuit – Google’s not out of the virtual woods yet. Educators are particularly concerned about data privacy in regard to Google’s Apps for Education tool. Is Google data mining student emails in order to target ads for universities, text books or school supplies? Sounds a little more hinky when you put it that way.
What do you think? Has Google crossed the creepy line or are they still standing right on the edge?