Google has convinced a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Illinois resident Alice Svenson, who said Google violated users' privacy by sharing the names of app buyers with developers.
Svenson sued Google last September, several months after Australian developer Dan Nolan revealed on his blog that Google automatically shares app buyers' personal information with developers.
"Every App purchase you make on Google Play gives the developer your name, suburb and email address with no indication that this information is actually being transferred," he wrote. With the information I have available to me through the checkout portal I could track down and harass users who left negative reviews."
For its part, Google didn't see any cause for concern. On the contrary, the company intentionally designed its platform so that people who purchase apps do so directly from the developer.
Svenson alleged in her complaint that she purchased an app from Google Play for $1.77 in May. She said that Google then shared her personal information with the YCDroid, the developer of the app, which converts SMS messages to emails.
She accused Google of breaking its contract with her by allegedly disclosing her personal information to a third party. She specifically alleged that Google's decision to transfer her data created “a significant and imminently greater risk of identity theft.”
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Larson Freeman in San Jose, Calif. threw out the lawsuit, ruling that Svenson hadn't shown any damages. “Plaintiff does not allege that what she received -- the app and unauthorized disclosure of her contact information -- was worth less than what she allegedly bargained for -- the app and non-disclosure of her contact information,” she wrote.
Freeman also rejected Svenson's theory that she was at risk for identity theft, ruling that possibility was too speculative to justify a lawsuit.
Even though Google won this round, the company's victory could prove short-lived. That's because Freeman dismissed the case without prejudice -- meaning that the user who sued can revise her complaint and try again.
Whether she will remains to be seen. Freeman herself expressed skepticism about whether Svenson would be able to do so successfully. “Under these circumstances, it is not clear how Plaintiff could amend her complaint to allege contract damages,” Freeman wrote. But, she added, she would give Svenson an opportunity to try to do so.
Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in San Jose, Calif. said that users who are suing Google for its privacy-policy changes could continue their lawsuit -- but only over allegations that the company wrongly transfers users' names and contact information to app developers.