On October 9, 2013, a federal district court dismissed all of the legal claims raised against four online advertising companies in 25 putative class action cases consolidated as In Re Google Inc. Cookie Placement Consumer Privacy Litigation. The cases alleged that consumer plaintiffs’ Safari browsers were set to block third-party cookies, but that code embedded in the defendants’ advertisements enabled them to place third-party cookies on the plaintiffs’ devices. The consolidated complaint charged the defendants with violations of three federal statutes: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (or “Wiretap Act”), the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”). Plaintiffs also alleged violations of several California state laws against one of the defendants.
The Court, consistent with previous federal decisions involving the use of browser cookies, first held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit because they failed to allege that they had been injured. The Court found that, even if the defendants had collected plaintiffs’ personally identifiable information via cookies, this would not establish that plaintiffs were thereby deprived of the value of the information. The Court went on to reject plaintiffs’ arguments that they had standing based on defendants’ alleged violations of their privacy rights protected by the Wiretap Act, SCA, CFAA, and California state laws. In a detailed decision, the Court ruled that the defendants’ alleged cookie practices did not violate any of these laws.