Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has been pardoned by a judge for facing interrogation in a consumer privacy case involving data mining.
Pichai was ordered to sit down for a two-hour hearing in December in a lawsuit alleging that the technology giant scooped user data through its Chrome web browser, even in “disguised” private-browsing mode.
But U.S. District Judge Evan Gonzalez Rogers on Monday overturned an earlier order by a magistrate judge.
According to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Schetenhelm, the proposed class-action lawsuit risks billions of dollars in losses for Google.
“We appreciate today’s decision,” said Jos Castaneda, a Google spokesman “We strongly oppose the claim in this case, and will continue to defend ourselves strongly.”
Pichai’s statement could help the plaintiffs claim that internal documents show that Google knew that users browsing in “incognito” mode misunderstood how secure their data was.
The magistrate judge did not consider whether Pichai’s problems had “unique or superior personal knowledge” or whether plaintiffs could obtain the information they needed without intruding on the CEO, Rogers wrote.
But Rogers has turned down a request from Google to protect its marketing executive, Lauren Tuhill, from questioning. He upheld an earlier decision that Tuhill should be questioned for up to four hours by plaintiff’s lawyers who wanted to ask him about brand marketing in disguise.
Google lost its bid to toss the suit in March. The agency has denied claims that it violated California’s privacy and federal wear-and-tear laws, saying consumers were suing it for misrepresenting its features and privacy controls.
The ruling comes after Pichai, who oversees Chrome, the world’s most popular browser, avoided questioning Google in another privacy lawsuit last month over allegations of snooping on Chrome users after opting out of sharing their data.
Google is facing privacy lawsuits from Arizona, Texas, Washington, Indiana, and Washington, D.C., alleging that it deceived customers into disclosing location data for advertising purposes.
The lawsuit was filed by Brown v. Google LLC, 20-3664, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
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