Google has been hit with a potential class-action lawsuit stemming from reports last week that the company's Android operating system tracks the location of cell phone users.
"If Google wanted to track the whereabouts of each of its products' users, it should have obtained specific, particularized informed consent," Michigan residents and Julie Brown and Kayla Molaski allege in their complaint. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Michigan.
The case marks the first legal action against Google related to location-tracking. Apple is also facing at least two similar lawsuits.
The litigation stems from revelations by security researchers that smartphones and other devices collect extensive data about their owners' whereabouts. iPhones and iPads store that information on a "consolidated.db" file contained in the devices.
Androids also reportedly store location data in unencrypted files on devices. In addition, Androids reportedly send the information back to Google.
Google has said that any location data it gathers is anonymous, and that it only collects information from users who have consented. The first time Android users access location services through the set-up wizard, they are shown a screen with a pre-checked box consenting to the company's collection of the data. People who don't affirmatively opt out are deemed to have consented to the data collection; if people never go through the set-up wizard, Google doesn't gather location information.
Android users Brown and Molaski allege in their lawsuit that Google did not provide enough details about the location tracking to have obtained informed consent. "Google's terms of service do not disclose its comprehensive tracking of users," they say.
They also argue that storing location data on their phones creates a "serious risk of privacy invasions, including stalking."
Among other counts, the complaint alleges that Google violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by accessing their devices without authorization. They are seeking an injunction ordering Google to stop tracking users and damages of more than $50 million.