A lawsuit against Google has been filed in a San Jose federal court alleging that the company scanned their academic-affiliated Gmail accounts.
The plaintiffs, four former and current University of California, Berkeley students, claim their email accounts were taken, processed, and kept by Google, now known as Alphabet, for the purposes of analytics, advertising, and tracking between November 2010 and March 2014. Google announced in April 2014 it would no longer be scanning Google Apps for Education accounts after it had denied for years that it had been doing so.
By that time, over 30 million students, teachers, and administrators were using these email accounts, unaware that the company had been reading their emails in an attempt to profile them. Some schools had been told their email would be private.
The class-action lawsuit, Corley et al v. Google, alleges similar behavior occurred at several universities across the country, including San Diego State University and Yale University. The case has the potential to affect tens of millions of current and former students in the nation, writes Cyrus Farivar for ArsTechnica.
The suit is asking the court to rule that the company is in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, with each of the potential 30 million plaintiffs being owed "statutory damages of the greater of $10,000 [ £7,000] or $100 [ £70] for each day on which any violation occurred." In addition, the plaintiffs are asking that the data collected about them by Google be deleted.
According to the civil complaint filed by attorney Ray Gallo last month:
"Google has refused to release additional details that would confirm its indirect admission that it has stopped collecting or using student data (or information derived from analysis of student data) for advertising purposes; furthermore, Google has refused to delete previously-collected data and has refused to promise not to use previously-collected data for advertising purposes."
Alphabet has not denied the allegations. Representative William Fitzgerald added that the company does not wish to comment on any pending litigation.
Gallo's website states that his clients are seeking $10,000 from Google as a result of illegally reading their Google Apps for Education email accounts.
Gallo is currently involved in another separate case pending before US District Judge Lucy Koh, pertaining to non-Gmail users who correspond with Gmail users. The case, Matera v. Google, would like Google to no longer be allowed to scan or analyze non-users' data.
A graduate of Yale University and the UCLA School of Law, Gallo has represented over 1,900 current and former students since 2007 in cases pertaining to student loans. Since 1999 he has been included in Martindale Hubbell's Bar Register of Pre-eminent lawyers and holds a perfect 10 rating from AWO.com. In addition, he has won over 85% of the cases tried to verdict and has a perfect record in defense trials.
Alphabet, Inc., formed in 2015, is the conglomerate parent company of Google. Its subsidiaries include Google, Google Capital and Google Fiber, with Alphabet's stock trading under Google's former symbols of GOOG and GOOGL.
Alphabet has total assets of $147 billion and employs over 60,000 worldwide.