Nearly 900 students have joined a lawsuit claiming their data was harvested without their consent

Legal action against Google by four UC Berkeley students has ballooned into two lawsuits by 890 U.S. college students and alumni alleging the firm harvested their data for commercial gain without their consent.

But the students’ claims may be derailed by a dispute over whether they should file their cases individually, rather than as a group.

Hundreds of U.S. college students and alumni in 21 states joined the original lawsuit filed in January by the four Berkeley students. On April 29, another 180 filed a separate lawsuit making the same claim: that Google’s Apps for Education, which provided them with official university email accounts to use for school and personal communication, allowed Google until April 2014 to scan their emails without their consent for advertising purposes.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.

However, the suits by the students, including 68 from Berkeley and 243 from UC Santa Cruz, have been thrown into uncertainty by a federal judge’s suggestion that each student in the largest claim should file separately so the court can collect 710 individual $400 filing fees.

“Our clerk’s office is really unhappy you are circumventing our filing fees by adding 710 cases under one case number,” U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh told the students’ lawyer, Ray Gallo, according to a court transcript.

Next page: Details about the allegations

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