Over the past year, there has been a massive amount of news and airtime devoted to the matter of personal privacy. Between Edward Snowden, the NSA and the constant wiretapping and cell phone tracking stories that have come out, it seems the idea of “privacy” — at least how we knew it a few decades ago — has disappeared.
But that’s not why we are writing this blog post, at least not directly. Google was recently sued by a number of users of their email service, Gmail, because those users allege that the seemingly-omnipresent internet giant scanned their emails and used their personal information in order to turn that data into profit.
The reason this story is significant is because the plaintiffs are trying to achieve class-action status. If that were the case, Google could be opened up to the wrath of hundreds of millions of people who use Gmail, Google Apps, and likely many other aspects of Google. If it goes class-action, the toll could be in the trillions of dollars to Google.
However, class-action lawsuits are difficult to achieve. Roughly 10-20 percent of such class-action requests are allowed, so they don’t exactly have a high success rate.
This story is still very important. Internet companies have faced a lot of scrutiny over the years, and they are regular defendants in lawsuits brought by their users. Despite the ingrained nature of the internet in today’s society, internet law and the internet tactics used by businesses are still relatively new, making for a complex marriage. It behooves companies with a significant internet presence to have an attorney that can advise them during uncertain times.
Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal, “Class-action Gmail lawsuit seeks trillions,” Eric Van Susteren, Feb. 28, 2014