gmail.pngSettlement on hold as judge trashes agreement

We’ve been watching the case of Matera V. Google for some time now.  At issue is the practice of scanning emails sent on Gmail accounts and using the information to send targeted ads to Gmail users.  The case alleges that Google violated the Wiretap Act by intercepting the messages.  The two sides came to an agreement on settling the case, but the judge ripped apart the agreement in court.

Google agreed to settle the case and to stop scanning emails when they are sent for the purpose of advertising.  California judge Lucy Koh called it vague and disappointing and stop just short of calling it a money grab by the attorneys, accusing the plaintiff’s legal counsel of being deceptive about the settlement.

According to CNS, Google will instead scan the messages when they are stored in the users’ inbox before and use that info for targeted ads.  Sounds like splitting hairs to me.  Whether they do it when you send it or when it arrives, they’re still looking at your personal info and targeting ads.

“I don’t see how this complies with the Wiretap Act,” Judge Koh said about the proposed settlement (via Tech 2), which has Google still able to track content of personal email for advertising.  Koh called it ironic that the plaintiff’s lawyers argue the significance of disclosures, but in crafting the settlement, there are none of be found.

“You got no disclosures on your shoppers. They don’t exist on this case, they didn’t exist earlier and they will not exist.” – Judge Koh via CNS

It’s not just Gmail users.

The suit points out that “Because non-Gmail users exchange emails with Gmail users, the Gmail plaintiffs alleged that non-Gmail users’ communications were subject to the same interception, scanning, and analysis as Gmail users.”  That’s a critical issue since the lead plaintiff claims not to be a Gmail user and therefore didn’t consent to the tracking.

Stay tuned.

Read the proposed settlement here.