Accused Of Invading Users’ Privacy, Google Implores Court To Protect Its… Privacy


Google, Inc. just settled the last of several lawsuits in which the plaintiffs alleged the company violated their privacy. The plaintiffs alleged Google violated Federal law and peeked too far into their personal lives by scanning the habits and tendencies of the users of all its services, and then “commingling” all that data in order to form a more educated guess at what kind of ads its users would respond to.

Now, in the wake of the settlements, the media want to get at the court documents the cases generated. Guess who can’t abide the thought of that? Google.

According to Courthouse News Service, lawyers for the company have asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh not to allow the court documents to be made public — even though a consortium of media outlets (including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, Reuters, POLITICO, Courthouse News Service and many more) maintains that “[u]nder the First Amendment and the federal common law, the press and the public have a presumptive right of access to court proceedings and documents.”

No way, say Google attorneys, who call the curious press corps — and we are not making this up — “media intervenors.”

Their argument, essentially, is that the cases have been settled, there’s no longer a plaintiff “class” of millions of Google users and, therefore, there’s no far-reaching public interest in the details of the case. 

Here’s Courthouse News Service quoting from one of the Google attorneys’ filings:

“The self-styled media intervenors’ perceived need for public access to the information sought to be sealed is significantly diminished by the court’s denial of class certification with prejudice,” Google attorney Whitty Somvichian, of the firm Cooley LLP, wrote in an answer filed Thursday [July 24]. “The media intervenors opposed the motions to seal on the basis that ‘the public interest cannot be overstated,’ in part, because ‘this case has the potential to affect the rights of the millions of class members.’ Now that the court has denied class certification with prejudice and each of the representative plaintiffs’ cases has been dismissed, the need for the ‘millions of class members’ to have access to Google’s confidential information is necessarily diminished.

But what if they only want to sell Google something?

For more on Google’s “commingling” method of aggregating information about user behavior in order to target advertising, see this 2012 article from Courthouse News Service.

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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