A federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Google, finding that the Web giant's browser cookie-tracking practices had not caused them any harm.
The lawsuit, which was filed in February 2012 by users of Web browsers from Apple and Microsoft, accused Google and three other online advertising companies of having "tricked" the Web browsers into accepting cookies that enabled Google to serve the plaintiffs targeted advertising. The lawsuit was filed soon after it was revealed that Google used special code to get around users' privacy controls in Safari and Internet Explorer in order to track users on computers and mobile devices.
While agreeing that the companies bypassed the browsers' privacy settings, US District Judge Sue Robinson wrote in her 25-page opinion (see below) released Wednesday that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate that they suffered harm as a result of their personal information being collected and sold.
"Google did not intercept contents as provided for by the Wiretap Act," Robinson wrote in her opinion. "While URLs may provide a description of the contents of a document, e.g., www.helpfordrunks.com, a URL is a location identifier and does not 'concern the substance, purport, or meaning' of an electronic communication."
Robinson also found that plaintiffs failed to "demonstrate that Google intercepted any 'contents or meaning'" under California's Invasion of Privacy Act or identify "any impairment of the performance or functioning of their computers."
Plaintiffs' attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.
Google said it was pleased with the court's decision.
"As always, protecting the privacy and security of our users is one of our top priorities," Google said in a statement.
The company settled Federal Trade Commission claims regarding the practice by agreeing to pay a $22.5 million fine -- the largest penalty the FTC has ever levied against a single company.