The lawsuit was originally filed in September 2015 by users of other email services who sent emails to contacts with Gmail addresses. Since they never signed up for Gmail, the plaintiffs argued that they never agreed to have their emails scanned by Google’s systems and Google’s scanning of their email was illegal.
The tech giant tried to argue that such a mechanism was within the “ordinary course of business.”
In a 38-page order, Judge Koh accepted the class lawsuit. While noting that Google needs to scan emails for purposes of spam and virus prevention, she dismissed the notion that scanning emails for the purpose of advertising is protected under the ordinary course of business clause.
“Under the plain meaning of the Wiretap Act, the ‘ordinary course of business’ exception protects an electronic communication service provider’s interception of email where there is ‘some nexus between the need to engage in the alleged interception and the [provider’s] ultimate business, that is, the ability to provide the underlying service or good,’” she wrote.
Due to Google’s large team of lawyers, it will likely take years if ever for the plaintiffs to win the case, especially as the plaintiffs still face a number of hurdles.