Google Wallet Privacy Dispute Heads To Mediation

A legal challenge to Google's practice of disclosing information about app purchasers to developers could be settled out of court, according to recent legal documents.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal recently signed an order sending the 2-year-old lawsuit to mediation. Grewal gave Google and the users who are suing until Feb. 6, 2015 to meet with a mediator, who will try to forge a resolution.

The move could bring an end to a lawsuit stemming from Google's controversial 2012 changes to its privacy policy. The revised policy allowed Google to combine data about users collected across various platforms, including YouTube and Android. In the past, Google didn't aggregate that data to create marketing profiles.

Earlier this year, Grewal allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with their lawsuit, but not based on their original claims. Instead, he said that the consumers could pursue Google for allegedly transferring users' names and contact information to some app developers. 

Those allegations -- which weren't part of the original controversy surrounding Google's privacy policy -- first surfaced last year, when it emerged that the company provided developers with a host of details about consumers who purchased apps, including people's contact information.

Many observers were surprised to learn that Google did so, largely because Apple's iTunes platform doesn't share purchasers' data. Google said at the time that the Google Wallet privacy policy always allowed it to share information necessary to process transactions.

Grewal wrote in his decision that the plaintiffs could move forward with allegations that the company “left a privacy policy in place which led consumers to believe that access to their data would be limited to certain groups ... even though it knew that it planned to distribute the data outside of those groups.”

Google's 2012 privacy policy changes riled many advocates, but regulators in the U.S. didn't move to prevent the company from its plans. In Europe, however, authorities are still criticizing the company for revising its privacy policy. Most recently, this week regulators in Germany told Google to obtain users' consent before combining data collected over various services.



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