Google Wins Delay In Email Privacy Battle

A judge has granted Google's request to delay a privacy lawsuit until after the Supreme Court decides whether consumers can sue in federal court without proving they suffered an economic injury.

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California said in a ruling issued Friday that the Supreme Court's upcoming decision in a matter involving the online data aggregator Spokeo "may provide substantial guidance" about the Google matter.

"The court concludes that an exercise of its discretion to temporarily stay this case is appropriate," Koh wrote.  

The lawsuit against Google dates to September, when San Francisco resident Daniel Matera, who doesn't have a Gmail account, alleged in a potential class-action that Google violates the federal wiretap law and a state privacy law by scanning emails in order to surround them with ads.

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Google's terms of service currently disclose that it analyzes the contents of email messages for features including "tailored advertising." But Matera says that as a non-Gmail user, he never agreed to those terms.

Last October, Google asked Koh to dismiss the lawsuit outright -- or alternatively, stay the matter until after the Supreme Court issues a decision in a lawsuit involving Spokeo. That matter stems from a 2010 lawsuit by Virginia resident Thomas Robins, who argues that the company violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by posting incorrect information about him, including that he was in his 50s, married with children, and employed in a professional or technical field. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting agencies to take steps to ensure the information they provide to potential employers is accurate.

Spokeo asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Robins shouldn't be able to proceed without showing that he was injured by any errors. The Supreme Court heard arguments last November, and is expected to issue a decision this year.

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