Judge Lucy Koh [official website] of the US District Court for the Northern District of California decided on Tuesday not to combine several lawsuits against Google [corporate website] for violating the privacy rights of its Gmail users into a single class action suit. The plaintiffs allege [Reuters report] that Google violated state and federal privacy and wiretapping laws by reviewing messages in order to conduct target advertising. Koh determined [Reuters report] that the claims were too dissimilar to be consolidated into a single suit and that the plaintiffs are foreclosed from pursuing further class action suits. Koh's decision is considered a win for Google, which could have faced billions in damages had the class action suit been permitted. Google is also in the midst of litigation in California over allegedly violating federal wiretapping law by collecting data while building its Street View maps.
Google has come under scrutiny in recent months for its privacy policies and it is currently litigating throughout the world for alleged violations. In February a French court ruled [JURIST report] that Google must display on its french page that they have been fined by the local data-protection watchdog for how they store user information. Also in February the UK High Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Google can be sued by British citizens. In November the Dutch Data Protection Agency (DPA) [official website] stated that Google was in violation [JURIST report] of the country's data protection act. Earlier that month the Regional Court of Berlin held that 25 of Google's privacy policies and terms of service violated [JURIST report] Germany's data protection law. In September, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] denied Google's motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit regarding the company's alleged violation of federal law.