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Lawsuit could lead to Google shelling out trillions

The following story doesn't really qualify as breaking news anymore, but even though it's a little bit older, it does highlight some important aspects about doing business in the 21st century. As we wrote about a few weeks ago, the internet has had an irreversible affect on how businesses operate. With that in mind, it is important for companies whose business model relies, partially or entirely, on the internet to know the risks and rewards that come with this territory.

Consider Google, easily one of the most influential companies -- if not the most influential company -- in the world. They probably face numerous lawsuits at any given time. But a recent one certainly poses a major threat, although it remains to be seen if it is accepted as a class-action lawsuit.

The lawsuit targets Google's email service, Gmail. Gmail is very popular and has millions of users. But the lawsuit being filed against Google claims that the company used illegal scanning tactics to garner information on Gmail users. According to the suit, Google did this to use that information in a for-profit manner. The lawsuit requests that Google pay the offending users $100 a day for the scanning they did over a five-year period.

If the lawsuit becomes class-action -- and only 10-20 percent of lawsuits achieve such a status -- Google could have to pay trillions of dollars in damages to its Gmail users.

Here we see the potentially dangerous side of the internet for businesses. Improperly using the internet to run your business could cost you in court.

Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal, "Class-action Gmail lawsuit seeks trillions," Eric Van Susteren, Feb. 28, 2014

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