Google’s Android smartphone has become a Big Brother and knows more about the users, than their family and friends does. A federal class-action lawsuit filed by a Charleston attorney, has alleged Google and Android phone apps of keeping track of user’s personal information and selling them to advertising companies. According to the lawsuit, Android apps keep track of customer’s personal information ranging from his physical location, to his sexual orientation and monthly income.
Aaron Mayer, the lawyer who filed the suit is representing three men, two from Texas and one from Florida. Mayer’s client learned form an article in Wall Street Journal that their phones could collect and sell their personal information. Mayer’s case is the first ever lawsuit nationally related to Android’s privacy concerns. Mayer said.
If you’re using a map application, then yeah, its going to get your location. If you’re using a map application and it’s also collecting your gender, your sexual preference and your income, users don’t think they’re consenting to that.
Mayer filed the case in Florida against Android’s owner, Google; Internet radio provider and Android app maker Pandora; and advertising companies AdMob and Traffic Marketplace. According the lawsuit, Google engineers the OS for different smartphone models to retrieve the user information from the phones back to the company’s databases. The smartphone apps gather information even when the users aren’t using their phones. Mayer also told that since the news of lawsuit outbreak, nearly 10 similar cases are filed around the country and all of those cases will eventually be consolidated into a single case in California. According to the lawsuit, 67 million Android based phones were shipped worldwide last year alone.
The lawsuit also alleges that Pandora collects location data and other information from phones and shares it directly with third parties. Officials with Pandora, Google and Ad Mob, has refused to comment on the pending litigation. However, Traffic Marketplace has made a brief statement saying that the company “does not collect or buy any personal data or information pertaining to mobile devices”.
The lawsuit asks compensation for the price of the smartphones and the value of the data collected and shared with the advertisers, plus disciplinary damages. Imagine if Google and its partners lose this lawsuit and they are asked to compensate all the Android users. Even worse, imagine what is it that Google potentially does not know about you.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, has asked via letter the CEOs of Google and Apple, for transparent privacy policies in the online marketplaces where customers buy apps. Franken wrote;
Although I believe there is a greater need for transparency and disclosure for the collection and sharing of all personal information, at a minimum, I ask that you require all location-aware applications in your app stores to provide privacy policies that clearly specify what kind of location information is gathered from users, how that information is used, and how it is shared with third parties.
According to Mayer the next six months are significant to determine the direction of the lawsuit. If the case shows any progress, other Android users would likely receive notice of the lawsuit.