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Is Google Too Big To Sue Over Gmail Privacy Concerns?

Publication Date: 
March 06, 2014
Business Week
Joel Rosenblatt

Professor Deborah Hensler weighs in on the feasibility of a lawsuit being brought against Google with Business Week's Joel Rosenblatt.

Google (GOOG), fighting claims that it illegally scans private e-mail messages, says it shouldn’t have to face a lawsuit that lumps together hundreds of millions of Internet users. It may not have to, but the issues the lawsuit raises may be harder to deflect.

A case brought against Google in 2013 claims it violates a federal wiretap law, as well as several state privacy laws, by intercepting, reading, and mining the content of messages sent through its Gmail service, which has 104 million users in the U.S. The information, the suit claims, is used to target ads and build user profiles.


The plaintiffs face “a very steep hurdle” to proceed as a class, says Deborah Hensler, a law professor at Stanford University, adding that only 10 percent to 20 percent of cases filed as class actions are allowed to go forward.