Google Prevails In Battle Over 'Passive' Android Data Transfers

A federal judge in California has thrown out a lawsuit by Android users who claimed that Google wrongly took their “property” when it allegedly collected app-related data.

Barring an appeal, the decision brings an end to a lawsuit filed in late 2020, when a group of Android users led by Joseph Taylor alleged that Google misappropriated their cellular data by collecting app-related data when the apps weren't in use.

Taylor's complaint drew on Vanderbilt University professor Douglas Schmidt's 2018 study about passive data collection, which said Android devices sent data back to Google hundreds of times each day.

Google argued in court papers that its practices were “fully disclosed” and necessary to enable features including Gmail and Maps.

The Android users argued to U.S. District Court Judge Virginia DeMarchi in the Northern District of California that the alleged data transfers consumed monthly bandwidth allotments.

DeMarchi rejected that theory last year and dismissed the claims, essentially ruling that bandwidth isn't the kind of property that can be misappropriated. She said at the time the consumers could reformulate their allegations and bring them again.

The consumers did so, but DeMarchi ruled Friday that the new complaint didn't warrant further proceedings.

The Android users' amended complaint “still does not allege facts that any plaintiff suffered any injury,” DeMarchi wrote in a 13-page ruling dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice -- meaning that the smartphone users can't amend their complaint and bring it again.

“Nowhere does the [amended complaint] allege that any plaintiff had to pay more money for data or suffered a degradation in service because of Google’s alleged passive data transfers,” she wrote. “Indeed, at oral argument plaintiffs stated that they could not allege such facts because they do not know whether they have been negatively affected by Google’s alleged conduct.”

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