California Plaintiff Class Actions Against Google, Yahoo Allege Email Eavesdropping
Class action lawsuits have been filed against Google and Yahoo! for unlawful and wrongful wiretapping and eavesdropping in violation of California’s Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA). Plaintiffs allege the defendants intercepted email threads prior to delivery without the consent of the author and sender. This is not a surprise as it is widely known that the intercepted information is used for targeted advertisements. Whether this practice violates CIPA, however, will be the main issue of the litigation.
Plaintiff trial attorney in the Yahoo! case, F. Jerome Tapley, stated his clients “noticed that the ads within their email browser were strangely correlating to the incoming email they were getting from their friends. It creeps people out.” The class seeks certification on behalf of all California residents who are not Google or Yahoo! subscribers but who send emails to people who are.
Both Google and Yahoo! contend that the email interceptions are all automated, and that no humans read the emails. Yahoo! just filed a motion to dismiss based on the theory that CIPA does not apply to email threads and communications: “The CIPA is a state statute governing unauthorized ‘wiretaps’ and ‘eavesdropping’ of ‘confidential’ communications without the ‘consent’ of all parties. Nowhere do its provisions purport to apply to email communications, much less the routing scanning and access of emails in which providers of electronic communications services (ECS), like Yahoo! necessarily must engage to provide email service to users.” A hearing on the motion to mismiss and class certification is scheduled for next year.
If the class is certified and the lawsuit proceed, electronic data discovery will become the next big litigation hurdle. ILS offers plaintiff electronic discovery services and support for class action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation, including but not limited to document review, automated issue coding and expert computer forensics. For more information, contact us directly at 888-313-4457.