Google Wants To Edit Public Record Of Court Hearing

In a remarkable push for secrecy, Google has asked a federal judge to delete portions of a transcript of a court hearing -- even though the proceeding was held in public and attended by members of the media.

The hearing centered on whether to grant class-action status to consumers who are suing Google for allegedly violating people's privacy with Gmail ads. The proceeding took place on Feb. 27, and generated significant media coverage.

Google prevailed with its argument that the lawsuit shouldn't proceed as a class-action. But the company now says that lawyers for the consumers “disclosed confidential and proprietary information about Google’s Gmail systems” at the hearing. Google argues that the “sealable” -- meaning confidential -- statements should now be removed from the transcript.

“While the Sealable Information was referenced during the hearing, Google believes that the transcript should nonetheless be [edited] to omit this information to avoid harm to Google and its users,” the company writes. “While Google was willing to permit the open discussion of this information in a live hearing, creating a permanent written record containing the Sealable Information, which competitors and potential spammers could pour [sic] over at their leisure in their efforts to infiltrate or copy Google’s systems, would cause Google and its users significant harm.”



Google also argues that even though there were “numerous press accounts” of the hearing, they didn't disclose the information that Google now wants to remove from the public record.

Understandably, this request isn't sitting well with a coalition of news organizations that previously filed papers opposing Google's request to seal information in the case. “One month after publicly discussing the facts in this matter in open court -- in front of members of the public, including the press -- Google is now seeking to seal portions of the transcript of the class certification hearing,” they argue. “Google effectively asks this Court to make secret facts that are already part of the public record. There is no legal basis for such a request.”

They add that editing the transcript wouldn't change the fact that some people -- including reporters -- already heard the statements Google is trying to delete from the record. “Neither Google nor the Court can actually make these facts secret again,” they argue.

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