A Madison County teen on Thursday sued Google, claiming the search engine giant intercepts and uses Gmail subscribers’ emails to generate advertising revenue.
The suit was filed in federal court by A.K., as next friend of the 16-year-old child, J.K, who seeks class action status for the complaint that alleges violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and Illinois’ eavesdropping statute.
Thomas Rosenfeld, Mark Goldenberg and Kevin Green of Goldenberg, Heller, Antognoli & Rowland in Edwardsville submitted the complaint on behalf of the plaintiff.
The minor asserts in the complaint that Google makes the majority of its revenue from advertising and charges advertisers based on the either number of times an ad appears on the screens of Gmail subscribers or the number of time Gmail subscribers click on these ads.
Google, the suit states, “utilizes an electronic device to intercept and scan the contents of subscribers’ incoming and outgoing emails immediately after the email communication is sent and before it arrives at its intended recipient.”
This “allows Google to place targeted ads on its subscribers’ Gmail screens and, thereby, generate revenue for Google,” the minor asserts in the complaint that notes minors do not need parental consent to obtain a Gmail account.
It adds, “As a result of Google’s interception, scanning, and use of Minor Child’s emails to place targeted advertisements, Google has obtained a monetary benefit.”
The minor’s suit proposes the creation of a class that includes minors throughout the nation who have a Gmail account and have sent or received emails from non-Gmail users or another minor Gmail subscriber within the past two years.
“The Class consists of millions of individuals,” the minor asserts in the suit.
The complaint also suggests a sub-class that would include minor Gmail subscribers in Illinois. The sub-class relates to the suit’s allegation that Google violated Illinois’ eavesdropping statute.
The first count of the complaint alleges a violation of the ECPA in that the minor did not consent to Google’s alleged practice of intercepting emails.
It also contends that Google didn’t obtain consent from the minor’s parents to do so or from non-Gmail users who sent or received emails from Gmail subscribers.
The minor asserts in the complaint that the alleged ECPA violation entitles each class member to statutory damages in the amount of $100 for each day of the violation or $10,000, as well as injunctive and\or declaratory relief, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.
In addition, the complaint includes counts for intrusion upon seclusion, unjust enrichment and violations of the state’s eavesdropping statute.