A federal judge in the Northern District of California recently dismissed a class action complaint accusing Google of unlawfully wiretapping calls to Verizon’s customer service center through its customer service product, Cloud Contact Center AI.  See Ambriz v. Google, LLC, No. 3:23-cv-05437 (N.D. Cal. June 20, 2024).

Plaintiff Misael Ambriz alleged that Google’s Cloud Contact Center is a generative AI service that provides a “virtual agent” that interacts with Verizon customers when they first contact Verizon.  If the conversation is subsequently transferred to one of Verizon’s live customer service representatives, the Cloud Contact Center AI allegedly continues to record and analyze the conversation to provide real-time support to the representative.  Plaintiff claimed that he had called Verizon’s Contact Center on several occasions and accused Google of wiretapping his conversations with its virtual agent and with Verizon’s human representatives.  On this basis, Plaintiff asserted a single claim against Google for violation of section 631 of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (“CIPA”).

The court granted Google’s motion to dismiss and found that Plaintiff’s CIPA claim was barred by section 631’s exemption from liability for telephone companies and their agents.  Finding no dispute as to Verizon’s status as a telephone company, the court first held that Google was Verizon’s agent, reasoning that Google was acting on Verizon’s behalf, and under Verizon’s control, as it provided the Cloud Contact Center AI to assist Verizon’s operation of its customer service center.  Moreover, the court also found that Google’s alleged wiretapping was for the purpose of the operation of Verizon’s services and facilities, as is also required to invoke section 631’s exemption from liability for telephone companies.  The court concluded by rejecting Plaintiff’s argument that section 631 only exempts wiretapping that is “necessary” to the telephone company’s services, finding this interpretation foreclosed by the plain text of the statute. 

The court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend, while noting that it was “doubtful” that Plaintiff could cure the deficiencies of his claim.