Android Users Seek Class-Action Status In Privacy Battle Over App Purchases

Android users who made purchases from Google's app store are asking to proceed with a class-action against the company for allegedly disclosing their names and other personal data to developers.

"Casting aside the express promises made in their own terms of use, for years, defendants have routinely and systematically disclosed to third-parties, their buyers’ personal contact and billing information -- including, names and email addresses -- which they now admit was not necessary to complete the transactions or otherwise authorized for disclosure," lawyers for the users write in a motion filed late last week with U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose, California.

The move marks the latest development in a lawsuit brought in 2013 by Illinois resident Alice Svenson. She alleged in a potential class-action that she purchased a $1.77 app that converts SMS messages to emails. Svenson, who bought the app from Google Play, said Google shared her personal information with YCDroid, the app's developer.



Svenson brought the case several months after Australian developer Dan Nolan blogged that Google automatically shares app buyers' personal information with developers. His post drew headlines, but Google said at the time it intentionally designed its platform to enable app purchasers to buy them directly from developers.

The privacy policy for Google Wallet said the company may disclose information that is necessary to process transactions. Google initially contended it was necessary to share users' data, because the company doesn't process the purchase. (In 2014, Google revised its practices.)

Svenson alleged that Google broke its contract by disclosing her personal information to a third party. Freeman initially threw out the lawsuit, ruling that Svenson hadn't shown that she was injured by the alleged breach of contract.

Svenson subsequently revised her complaint to include allegations that Google lessened the value of her personal information by sharing it with YCDroid. She added that there is a “robust market” for that type of data, and that she -- and other app purchasers -- were deprived of the ability to sell their data themselves.

Last year, Freeman said that Svenson's allegations about the value of her data were sufficient to warrant further proceedings in the case.

Svenson now is asking to be able to proceed on behalf of a class of users who made app purchases of less than $300 between March 1, 2012 and April 30, 2014. The proposed $300 limit stems from Google's "varied" policies regarding purchases over that figure, according to the court papers.

Freeman is slated to hold a hearing about the matter on Aug. 24.

Last year, U.S. District Court Magistrate Paul Grewal in San Jose dismissed a separate lawsuit that also alleged Google violated app purchasers' privacy by sending their names to developers.

Grewal said the consumers couldn't proceed with their case because they didn't allege they were harmed by Google.

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