March 19, 2014 1:32 PM EDT

Users of Google’s popular Gmail service will have a more difficult time suing the Silicon Valley king over privacy concerns after a court ruled late Tuesday that it won’t allow several lawsuits to be combined into a single class action.

A California judge has said claims that the Internet company violated the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of email users were too dissimilar to be lumped together in a single court case, Reuters reports. The suits will now have to remain divvied up and filed by individuals or small groups, lowering potential recoveries and increasing costs for privacy rights activists.

Uniting the complaints into a single case “will lead to numerous individualized inquiries that will overwhelm any common questions,” U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose said.

The case sought to address how email services like Gmail collect data on email users and use it for advertising, which can boost revenue and profitability. The lawsuit against Google sought damages of $100 per day for each email user whose privacy was violated. Google has said its software simply searches for keywords that can be used for targeted advertising.


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