Court Rejects Google Users' Request To Intervene In RTB Privacy Battle

A federal appellate court on Thursday declined to hear an appeal by Google users who want to proceed with class-action claims centered on the company's real-time bidding system.

The court's move leaves in place a decision issued by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers who said the users could not seek monetary damages on a class-wide basis because their privacy claims would turn on whether they consented to Google's practices.

Questions about consent would require the kind of case-by-case analysis that's inconsistent with class-action lawsuits, Rogers wrote in a decision issued in April.

Her ruling doesn't prevent individual users from attempting to sue Google, doing so can be prohibitively expensive.

The Google users had asked the 9th Circuit to immediately review Rogers' decision, arguing that it would effectively prevent class-actions in privacy lawsuits.



The company countered that the dispute didn't involve the kinds of “exceptional circumstances” that would warrant an immediate appeal.

A two-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Google and rejected the users' request.

The privacy battle dates to 2021, when Missouri resident Kimberley Woodruff and other users alleged the company's real-time bidding ad system violates people's privacy by sharing their personal information with “thousands” of outside companies. Other Google users, including California and out-of-state residents, later joined in the complaint.

Among other claims, the users said Google violated promises that it wouldn't share people's personal information.

Two years ago, Rogers rejected Google's request to throw out the lawsuit at an early stage of the proceeding. She said at the time that the allegations in the complaint, if proven true, could show that Google violated federal and California privacy laws, as well as promises to avoid sharing personal information.

The users subsequently urged Rogers to certify a class of all Google account holders whose personal information was transferred by Google through real-time bidding after June 28, 2016 -- the date Google revised its privacy policy in a way that allowed the company to combine data about pseudonymous web-browsing activity with personally identifiable information.

Google opposed certification, arguing that key questions about users' consent to data sharing couldn't be answered on a class-wide basis.

Rogers agreed that claims for monetary damages would require individual evaluation and rejected the motion for class-certification with prejudice regarding those claims. She also rejected the class-certification motion for purposes of obtaining an injunction against Google, but without prejudice -- meaning the plaintiffs could gather more evidence and renew their attempt to obtain an injunction.

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