Google has been reportedly accused of illegally wiretapping Gmail content of its users to send them targeted ads.
The search giant has been accused by plaintiffs and privacy rights advocates over the years and the lawsuits have been merged into two separate cases, questioning the extent to the company's wiretapping via its emailing service and its Street View mapping project.
However, Google defending its methods has struggled to persuade overseers and its users that it protects consumer data, while arguing that the law is stuck in the past and has failed to keep up with new technologies, the New York Times reports.
The wiretapping rulings could have broad effects on Google's service, because nearly half a billion people worldwide use it and if it is a certified class action, the fines would be enormous and could have long-term consequences for all other e-mail services.
The plaintiffs have accused the search giant of scanning their email content violating state and federal anti-wiretapping laws, in order to provide targeted ads .
Judge Lucy H. Koh has denied Google's motion in the 43-page order and dismissed the company's argument that Gmail users consented to the interception and that non-Gmail users who communicated with Gmail users also knew that their messages could be read.
Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law said that the ruling has the potential to really reshape the entire e-mail industry.
The report added that the federal anti- wiretapping law at the heart of both cases is part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a 1986 law that has been under fire for years for not taking into account modern-day technology like e-mail.