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Justices' Google Privacy Opinion Highlights Impact of Spokeo

March 27, 2019

Billy Gaudet and Jack Pringle discuss the recent ruling of Frank v. Gaos in a guest piece for Law360.

Under Frank v. Gaos, plaintiff Paloma Gaos filed a lawsuit against Google alleging Google violated the Stored Communications Act by transmitting users’ search terms in “referrer headers.” In April 2011, Google was granted dismissal based on the lack of Article III standing since Gaos was unable to provide sufficient facts supporting her claim that there was a violation of a statutory right.

“The district court’s ruling reflected then-current precedent in the Ninth Circuit that the allegation of the violation of a statutory right establishes the 'injury' necessary to establish Article III standing,” Billy and Jack explain.

In contrast, in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Spokeo Inc. v. Robins that Article III requires concrete evidence, including in instances of statutory violation.

“Given that neither the district court nor the Ninth Circuit had addressed the issue of standing post-Spokeo, and indeed had not considered that issue following the current plaintiffs' second amended complaint, the Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit's decision and sent the case back down for further proceedings,” the authors said.

Federal courts have been unable to reach a decision based on the rationale and evidence given under Spokeo Inc. v. Robins, and there are still mixed opinions on the use of cy pres awards in class action settlements.

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