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U.S. judge allows lawsuit against Google over email ads

A Google sign is seen at a Best Buy electronics store in this photo illustration in Encinitas, California April 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A Google sign is seen at a Best Buy electronics store in this photo illustration in Encinitas, California April 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday refused to dismiss most of a lawsuit against Google Inc over allegations the company improperly scanned the content of customers' emails in order to place ads.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California ruled that the proposed class action lawsuit against Google can proceed. She rejected Google's argument that its users had consented to having their email read for the purposes of targeted advertising.

"We're disappointed in this decision and are considering our options," Google spokesman Matt Kallman said in an email.

Litigation brought by nine plaintiffs, some Gmail users, some not, was consolidated before Koh earlier this year. The plaintiffs maintain Google violated several laws, including federal anti-wiretapping statutes by systematically crossing the "creepy line" to read private email messages in order to profit, according to court documents.

Google moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing in part that the plaintiffs had consented to the scanning when they agreed to Google's terms of service. Koh disagreed.

"Nothing in the policies suggests that Google intercepts email communication in transit between users, and in fact, the policies obscure Google's intent to engage in such interceptions," the judge wrote.

Koh did dismiss two claims brought by the plaintiffs but gave them an opportunity to refile them with additional facts.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In Re: Google Inc. Gmail Litigation, 13-md-2430.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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