In a preliminary victory for Google, a federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a host of privacy-related claims by a group of Android users who allege that the company wrongly transmitted their geolocation data and other personal information to app developers.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in the Northern District of California found that the consumers didn't allege sufficient facts to support their claims that Google violated the federal computer fraud law, as well as a host of state laws. But White also ruled that the consumers could amend their allegations and re-file the complaint.
But in a defeat for Google, White specifically rejected the company's argument that the consumers hadn't alleged sufficient injury to establish “standing,” which is necessary to proceed with a lawsuit. White based that portion of his decision on consumers' allegations that transmission of their geolocation data drained their phones' batteries.
“Although Plaintiffs do not allege how frequently Google collects geolocation data, they do allege that their batteries discharged more quickly and that their services were interrupted,” he wrote. “These allegations are sufficient, at the pleading stage, to allege standing.”
The lawsuit dates to 2011, when a group of consumers alleged that Google violated their privacy by transmitting their personal information -- including geolocation data and unique device identifiers -- to app developers. The consumers, who installed apps like Angry Birds and Pandora, said in their complaint that Google mislead users about the data transmission.
“Google claims that users may 'opt-in' to having their location tracked but in doing so will be 'anonymized.' This, however, is not the case because even when geolocation services are turned off, Android Devices continue to store geolocation data on the Android Devices, which are later transmitted to Google the next time geolocation services are turned on,” the consumers alleged.
The consumers, who are seeking class-action status, say that Google allowed app developers to scoop up Android users device identifiers, geolocation information, and also “app activity such as searches and music/video selections, as well as information regarding age and gender.” The users said they never consented to sharing that type of data with outside companies.
The suit was initially filed soon after researchers reported that the majority of the most popular 101 apps for iPhone and Android phones sent their unique identifiers to other companies.
Apple is facing a similar lawsuit for allegedly transmitting users' personal information to app developers.
The consumers who are suing Google have until April 25 to file a revised complaint.