NEW YORK – On August 3, 2021, United States District Judge Lucy H. Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California appointed DiCello Levitt Gutzler partner David A. Straite, CIPP/US as part of the six-person team to lead the consolidated privacy cases challenging Google’s broadcast of user data in Google’s online Ad Exchange. See Hewitt, et al. v. Google LLC, 21-CV-2155-LHK (N.D. Cal.).
The plaintiffs allege that when an internet user visits a website running behavioral ads through Google’s Ad Exchange, Google re-broadcasts large amounts of user data during the bid request, exposing this sensitive data to potential ad buyers in an auction process called “real time bidding” or “RTB.” These ad buyers include advertisers and publishers, but also include hedge funds, political campaigns, and even the government. The plaintiffs allege that this exposure violates Google’s contractual promise to Account Holders not to sell their personal information, and also violates California law forbidding the sale of personal information without consent.
Google’s RTB auction (like the similar RTB auction devised by the Internet Advertising Bureau, or IAB) has come under increasing scrutiny in North America and Europe. The first privacy investigation of the RTB auction launched two years ago in Ireland, and complaints have since been filed in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Spain (among others), alleging violations of Europe’s data protection regime.
In the United States, attention first focused on the antitrust implications of Google’s dominance of the online advertising market through its advertising platform, including a multi-state enforcement action brought in 2020 by 17 State Attorneys General, currently pending in the Eastern District of Texas. In 2021 the focus switched to the privacy implications of the RTB auction, including with the filing of this nationwide class action. Others followed, which Judge Koh consolidated in June.
On July 16, 2021, six attorneys filed a motion to create an executive committee to lead the consolidated cases, consisting of David A. Straite of DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC; Lesley E. Weaver of Bleichmar Fonti & Auld LLP; Jason Barnes of Simmons Hanley Conroy LLC; Nanci Nishimura of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP; Francis A. Bottini, Jr., of Bottini & Bottini, Inc.; and Elizabeth Pritzker of Pritzker Levine LLP, with Ms. Pritzker as the chair. As noted in the motion, the team is half women and half LGBTQ+ attorneys, believed to be a first in a major data privacy class action. On August 3, 2021, Judge Koh granted the motion to appoint the leadership team.
“The sheer volume of user data broadcast and sold each day in Google’s RTB auction is staggering, and the dangerous privacy implications are nowhere near understood by the average internet user,” said David. “It is an honor to be chosen to help lead this important class action, and to work with these gifted attorneys. The diversity of this team also presents a tremendous opportunity to advance women and LBGTQ+ attorneys in the class action bar, and I am grateful to the Court,” David added.
About David A. Straite, CIPP/US
David A. Straite, CIPP/US is a partner in DiCello Levitt Gutzler’s New York office, joining in May of this year. David’s recent addition brings depth and firepower to a premier technology litigation practice that has played pivotal roles in several of the world’s largest data breach class actions, including Equifax and Marriott/Starwood. DiCello Levitt Gutzler was one of only five firms to be named “Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Practice Group of the Year” in December 2020 by Law360. As a hands-on litigator with a history of innovation, David has spent the last decade helping to lead some of the largest and most complex technology and data privacy cases against Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and others. Ten years ago, MIT Technology Review magazine called him “something of a pioneer” in digital privacy litigation.
About DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC
At DiCello Levitt Gutzler, we’re dedicated to achieving justice for our clients through class action, business-to-business, public client, whistleblower, and personal injury litigation. Our lawyers are highly respected for their ability to litigate and win cases—whether by trial, settlement, or otherwise—for people who have suffered harm, global corporations that have sustained significant economic losses, and public clients seeking to protect their citizens’ rights and interests. Every day, we put our reputations—and our capital—on the line for our clients.