Judge dismisses lawsuit over Google’s ad-targeting tactics

Rules plaintiffs demonstrated no harm from alleged privacy invasion

A Delaware judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Google that had alleged the search giant "tricked" Web browsers into accepting cookies that enabled Google to serve the plaintiffs targeted advertising.

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I have not read the judge's decision, but her reasoning as reported in news accounts certainly makes sense.

From Bloomberg:

"Google did not intercept contents as provided for by the Wiretap Act," U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson in Wilmington, Delaware, said in her opinion. The users also didn't "demonstrate that Google intercepted any 'contents or meaning'" under California's Invasion of Privacy Act, she said. Nor did the users identify "any impairment of the performance or functioning of their computers," the judge wrote.

No harm, no lawsuit. None of which means Google was blameless. From a Wall Street Journal blog post this morning:

The case stems from a February 2012 discovery by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer that Google and three other online-advertising companies had circumvented Safari's ad-blocker. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission subsequently sued Google for breaking promises to honor browsers' privacy settings. Google agreed to pay $22.5 million last year to settle the case, while denying it did anything improper.

A Google spokeswoman said the company was "pleased" with (yesterday's) decision. ... "Protecting the privacy and security of our users is one of our top priorities," Google said in an emailed statement.

The top priority, of course, is making money.

Mayer noted to the Journal that a primary problem here is that "Congress badly needs to update the nation's privacy laws."

Congress badly needs to do a lot of things it isn't doing right now.

(Update: Law Technology News has a copy of the ruling that you can read here.)

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