Litigation brought by nine plaintiffs, some
Gmail users, some not, was consolidated before U.S. District
Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, last year. The
plaintiffs maintain Google violated several laws, including
federal anti-wiretapping statutes by systematically crossing the
"creepy line" to read private email messages in order to profit,
according to court documents.
The case is being closely watched as it could alter how tech
companies provide email service.
Koh must decide whether the lawsuit can proceed as a class
action, which would allow the plaintiffs to sue as a group and
give them more leverage to extract a larger settlement. However,
at a hearing on Thursday, Koh said plaintiff attorneys faced a
"huge hurdle" to show that non-Gmail users were entitled to
class action status.
Google argues in court papers that the identity of impacted
non-Gmail users can only be ascertained by sending an email
notice to all non-Gmail users whose addresses are on file in
Google's systems, and then sifting through the responses. That
kind of procedure would be unprecedented and unworkable, Google
Koh did not issue a formal ruling on Thursday.
A group of media companies, including Reuters, has asked Koh to
make public several documents that both sides submitted to the
court under seal. Koh has not yet ruled on that request.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
is In Re: Google Inc. Gmail Litigation, 13-md-2430.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by
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