Google Asks Court to Keep Its Gmail Secrets

Google has asked a federal judge to reject a media request to unseal documents in the privacy class action over email scanning.

The company was accused of violating privacy rights through its practice of automatically scanning email messages to provide ads based on the contents of emails.  The company has said that no humans are involved in looking at emails.

In papers filed Monday, Google asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to reject a February media request to unseal documents in six different Google sealing requests.

The court has previously approved sealing orders based on careful “line-by-line analysis” in the past, Google said.

“The media intervenors never objected to any of these prior sealing orders, and they have published numerous accounts of the Gmail cases pending before this court without ever claiming that the limited sealing of confidential material has somehow hindered their ability to report on the issues raised,” the document states.

Media groups seeking the unsealing order include:  the California Newspaper Publishers Association, Washington Post Co., Seattle Times, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Forbes, Gannett Co., McClatchy Company, which owns the chain of Bee newspapers, Reuters, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, National Public Radio and the Society of Professional Journalists.

“The public interest in this case cannot be overstated, as evidenced by the worldwide focus on the court’s September ruling on Google’s motion to dismiss,” the media petition states.  “This case has the potential to not only affect the rights of the millions of class members, but also to set precedent on vital issues of first impression for privacy law,” it states.

The media petition describes Google’s arguments in favor of sealing as citing “a nebulous economic harm that could result from the public disclosure of any information about Google’s business model or technology.”

The media groups accuse Google of attempting to litigate the case in secrecy, in violation of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals precedent.  To overcome the court’s strong presumption of open access to documents in civil litigation, Google must present “compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings that outweigh the general history of access,” the media petition states.

Google responded Monday that the media arguments are “largely immaterial” because the information has already been approved for court sealing under the “compelling reasons” standard.

The media petition sought a June 19 hearing on the issue.  Google asked Koh to reject the request and grant the sealing motions.

Case: In re Google Inc. Gmail Litigation, No. 13-md-2430LHK

Media Motion here.

Complaint here.





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