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Google Defeats Most Claims in Lawsuit Over Browser Tracking

Four computer users had accused Google of bypassing their Web browser cookie blockers.

A U.S. appeals court upheld the dismissal of federal claims and revived two California state law claims accusing Google of invading computer users' privacy by enabling the placement of "cookies" in their browsers to track their Internet use.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on Tuesday rejected claims in a proposed class-action lawsuit that Google violated federal wiretap and computer fraud laws by exploiting loopholes in Apple's Safari browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Four computer users accused the Mountain View, California-based unit of Alphabet Inc. of bypassing their cookie blockers, helping advertisers target potential customers. But in a 60-page decision on behalf of a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Julio Fuentes said the plaintiffs did not show they suffered "damage" or "loss" from the tracking of their computer use.

Fuentes nonetheless said Google's alleged contravention of cookie blockers it publicly promised to respect could lead a reasonable jury to find it engaged in "egregious" conduct that violated users' privacy rights under California law.

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Google agreed in 2012 and 2013 to pay a combined $39.5 million to settle civil charges by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 37 states and Washington, D.C., that it tracked Safari users' Internet use without their knowledge. It did not admit wrongdoing.

Jay Barnes, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined to comment. Google also declined to comment.

Tuesday's decision largely upheld an Oct. 2013 dismissal of the case, including other state law claims, by U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson in Wilmington, Delaware. The case is In re: Google Inc Cookie Placement Consumer Privacy Litigation, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-4300.