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Google wins most of the browser tracking lawsuit

The dismissal of the case of Google bypassing cookie blockers and placing cookies in a person's computer, which happened in 2013, was in most part upheld on Tuesday by a US appeals court.

According to a Reuters report, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia rejected claims in a proposed class action lawsuit that Google violated federal wiretap and computer fraud laws. According to the lawsuit, it had done so by exploiting loopholes in Apple's Safari browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Four computer users accused Alphabet of bypassing the blocks that were in place, however Circuit Judge Julio Fuentes, speaking on behalf of a three-judge panel, said the plaintiffs did not show they suffered "damage" or "loss" from the tracking of their computer use.

What he did say is that bypassing the blocks in place, even though Google publically stated it would respect cookie blockers, could lead a reasonable jury to find it engaged in "egregious" conduct that violated users' privacy rights under California law.

Jay Barnes, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined to comment. Google declined to comment.

Back in 2013, the court said Google cannot take advantage of the “party” exception because Google bypassed browser settings to place cookies and the information sent would have been different had the third party cookies not been placed.

However, plaintiffs have problems alleging that any “contents” of their communications were intercepted or disclosed. Personally identifiable information that’s automatically generated (such as metadata) is not considered “content” for ECPA purposes. A URL itself is also not considered content.

While the court acknowledges that in many instances, a URL may give clues as to the document’s contents, it’s a location identifier. Thus, plaintiffs failed to allege a violation of the Wiretap Act.