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Google allowing Android app vendors to illegally collect user data, lawsuit alleges

Jaikumar Vijayan | May 16, 2013
Several users of devices running Google's Android operating system have filed an amended version of an earlier lawsuit accusing the company of illegally collecting, and allowing others to collect, extensive amounts of mobile user data without proper notice or consent.

Google's own privacy policies do not inform users of the extensive data collection practices of Android mobile application providers, he said. Often, users download these applications based on Google's representations in its privacy polices and its terms of service agreements, he said. Many users are unlikely to download third party applications if they were more fully informed about the true nature and the extent of the data being collected, he said.

The complaint also accuses Google of using its analytics tools and other services to collect extensive user information for targeted advertising purposes and for selling to third parties.

In addition, it accused Google of taking "affirmative steps" to limit the ability of users to block such data gathering and tracking. As an example, the complaint pointed to Google's alleged removal of an ad-blocking tool called AdBlock Plus, from its Google Play application store.

Such complaints are not unusual for Google or others like Facebook and Apple. All three companies have been fairly regular targets of consumer complaints alleging all sorts of privacy violations.

In the present instance, it remains unclear how far the lawsuit will go. Even Audet concedes the battle will be very tough. There's a level of detail and specificity involved in these privacy cases that can sometimes be hard to achieve, he said. Proving that the alleged data collection hurts consumers financially, or has injured them in a specific manner, can also be challenging, he said. "This is a hard case,: he said.

A Google spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the company had no comment on the pending litigation.

 

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