Google sees off browser tracking cases

A US appeals court upheld the dismissal of federal claims and revived two California state law claims accusing Google of invading computer users’ privacy by placing tracking “cookies” in their browsers.

The 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia rejected claims in a proposed class action lawsuit that Google violated federal wiretap and computer fraud laws by exploiting loopholes in Apple Safari browser and Microsoft Internet Explorer browser.

Four computer users accused Google of bypassing their cookie blockers, helping advertisers target potential customers.

In a 60-page decision on behalf of a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Julio Fuentes said the plaintiffs did not show they suffered “damage” or “loss” from the tracking of their computer use.

Fuentes said Google’s alleged contravention of cookie blockers it publicly promised to respect could lead a reasonable jury to find it engaged in “egregious” conduct that violated users’ privacy rights under California law.

Google agreed in 2012 and 2013 to pay a combined $39.5 million to settle civil charges by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 37 states and Washington, DC that it tracked Safari users’ Internet use without their knowledge. It did not admit doing anything wrong.

The decision largely upheld the October 2013 dismissal of the case, including other state law claims, by US District Judge Sue Robinson in Wilmington, Delaware.