Hundreds Of College Students And Alumni File Suit Against Google For Scanning Emails Without Consent

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Google seems to be forever linked with concerns over user privacy. After all, the company has the most popular search engine in the world and the world’s most popular smartphone operating system (Android). Now, Google’s penchant for scooping up massive amounts of data for advertising purposes has landed it in legal troubles over at UC Berkeley.

Two lawsuits have been filed against the search giant which together include 890 students and alumni that claim Google’s Apps for Education platform was used to scan their emails for advertising purposes without first gaining consent from each individual user. Faculty and students alike used official university email accounts that were provided using Google Apps for Education, and were used for both official school purposes and personal communications.

According to the lawsuits, Google was siphoning data from university students and alumni as far back as 2010 and didn’t cease these operations until 2014. “We’ve permanently removed all ads scanning in Gmail for Apps for Education, which means Google cannot collect or use student data in Apps for Education services for advertising purposes,” said Google for Education Director Bram Bout in April 2014.

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“Earning and keeping their trust drives our business forward. We know that trust is earned through protecting their privacy and providing the best security measures.”

But those actions to curb the data binge, which occurred on April 30th 2014, still don’t make up for the previous four years of data collection that took place via the Google Apps for Education platform according to the lawsuits.

"Each Plaintiff received disclosures from his or her Educational Institution that indicated his or her emails were private," reads one of the court filings. "None of these disclosures notified him or her of Google's interception or content scanning for Commercial Purposes. Many Plaintiffs received disclosures that assured them there would be no such scanning."

One of the lawsuits involves 710 students and alumni, while the other represents another 180 individuals. Whatever the merits of the two cases, the students might have trouble moving forward through the legal system. U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh is apparently unhappy that the lawsuit involving 710 people is being filed jointly instead of individually. Why might this be a problem, you might ask? Well, the court would only receive a single $400 filing fee instead of 710 separate filing fees of $400 each. So at least in that sense, it appears that the court is first and foremost concerned with getting its coffers replenished.