As I recently wrote, technology companies are an increasingly juicy target for class action attorneys. And one of the juciest targets, for obvious reasons, is Google.
The latest legal assault the world’s iconic search engine will have to defend against is the charge that its inclusion of search queries in its query strings is a violation of the “the privacy rights of millions of Americans.“
That’s because those query strings are passed as referrers by browsers, meaning that third parties can track the searches that lead individuals to their websites.
The law firms of Nassiri & Jung LLP and Edelson McGuire LLC, which are also involved in ongoing lawsuits against Facebook and Zynga, believe that the referrer information could be used by third parties to expose the identities of individuals. They are thus asking the court for injunctive releif (eg. the death of Google’s query strings). And they’re asking, of course, for monetary compensation”for those whose search queries were wrongly shared.” This incredulously includes everybody who performed a Google search and clicked on a result from October 25, 2006 through the present day.
The truth, of course, is that Google isn’t responsible for transmitting referrer data. Web browsers are. So Google’s inclusion of search queries in its query strings doesn’t constitute the “[systematic] disclosing [of] user search queries” the plaintiffs say it does. Interestingly, Google for SSL, which provides access to Google search over HTTPS, has the same search queries in its query strings, but they of course aren’t shared with third parties when a result is clicked because web browsers don’t transmit referrer data over HTTPS.
But technical details don’t matter. For class action attorneys, Google is to blame because, well, it has the deepest pockets. Evidencing just how paper thin the case against Google is the attorneys’ decision to reference Google’s do no evil mantra:
If there’s anything that screams “argument that can’t stand on its own two feet” when it comes to Google, it’s usually (but not always) a reference to Google’s “do no evil” mantra. Unfortunately, the real evil — class action lawsuits that seek little more than a transfer of money from innovative companies to opportunistic attorneys — is something Google and others in the tech industry had better get used to.