Thanks to a judge’s order, Google must face another proposed class-action lawsuit over its scanning of Gmail. The issue is a lingering headache for the search giant, which has faced allegations for years now that scanning Gmail in order to create personalized ads violates US wiretapping laws.
In a 38-page order (PDF), US District Judge Lucy Koh rejected Google’s argument that the scanning takes place within the “ordinary course of business.”
“Not every practice that is routine or legitimate will fall within the scope of the ‘ordinary course of business’,” Judge Koh wrote.
Koh noted that while Google has to scan for other reasons, like virus and spam prevention, the company didn’t have to scan for advertising purposes. She noted that in April 2014, Google ”ceased intercepting, scanning, and analyzing, for advertising purposes, the contents of emails transmitted via Google Apps for Education.”
According to Koh, that shows that Google is able to provide Gmail, at least to some users, without scanning email for ad purposes.
The order was published on Friday and first reported earlier today by Courthouse News. The ruling means that Google won’t be able to get the lawsuit, which was filed in September, thrown out at an early stage.
However, the plaintiffs are a long way from seeing a payday. Google will likely fight hard to defend the way it has long run its Gmail service. The plaintiffs still have yet to pass key hurdles, including forming a class, which proved impossible in an earlier lawsuit.
Koh’s order reviews the history of those earlier privacy cases, the first of which was filed in 2010. …