Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Accusing Google Of 'Spying' On Android Users

Google has again defeated a lawsuit brought by two Android users who accused the company of “spying” on them by collecting information about their use of outside companies' apps.

In a decision issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California threw out the lawsuit with prejudice -- meaning the Android users can't reformulate their claims and bring them again. Breyer previously dismissed the claims without prejudice, a move that allowed Florida residents Marie Hammerling and Kay Jackson to beef up their allegations and refile them.

The ruling grew out of a lawsuit brought last year over the “Android Lockbox,” a program that allegedly enables Google employees to gather data about users when they interact with non-Google apps.

Android Lockbox came to public attention in 2020, when The Information reported that Google drew on data about people's use of outside apps, like TikTok, for competitive purposes.

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Google reportedly only collects the data from users who agree to share their “usage and diagnostics” information with the company. The tech company says in an online support page the company uses that data “to improve products and services, like Google apps and Android devices.”

When Breyer dismissed the original complaint in July, he ruled that the allegations, even if proven true, wouldn't support the lawsuit's claims. For instance, one of the claims was that Google engaged in “intrusion upon seclusion” -- a broad privacy concept that involves an intentional and “highly offensive” intrusion into a private place.

Breyer said in his earlier ruling that the allegations didn't meet that standard, because the data supposedly collected wasn't so specific or personal that its collection was harmful.

In August, Hammerling and Jackson filed an amended complaint that included more details about the type of data Google allegedly gathered from apps. For example, the amended complaint alleged that Hammerling visited the Wish app and viewed a foot massager as well as size 9 women's slippers, and that she visited the Groupon app and viewed deals for discounts on anti-inflammatory meal subscriptions.

Breyer said in his new ruling that such data “still is not sufficiently personal, nor its collection sufficiently harmful, to be highly offensive.”

“Hammerling’s searches of a foot massager, slippers, meal subscriptions ... are better characterized as data collection of 'routine commercial behavior,' not considered a highly offensive intrusion of privacy in this district,” he wrote.

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