Google sued over Android data location collection

Class-action lawsuit seeking $50 million alleges privacy violations in Android phones collecting location information.

Two Michigan women are suing Google over location data collected by Android devices, a week after Apple was named in a lawsuit citing privacy violations with the iPhone logging similar data.

The $50 million lawsuit against Google seeks to stop Google from selling phones with software that can track a user's location, the Detroit News reported today.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Detroit on behalf of plaintiffs Julie Brown and Kayla Molaski, who are seeking class action status for the suit. Their lawyer, Steven Budaj, argues in the complaint that the tracking of Android owners' location "puts users at serious risk of privacy invasions, including stalking."

Google acknowledged last week that it collects location information--including GPS current location, timestamps, nearby Wi-Fi network addresses, and device IDs--from Android devices but said it was opt-in and not traceable to a specific individual. Users can disable the GPS feature, but then they won't get as much function out of maps and other location-based services.

"We look forward to engaging with policymakers about how we protect our users' mobile privacy," Google's statement at the time said. "All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user. We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user."

Google representatives declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit against Apple filed in Florida last week also seeks class action status and accuses Apple of violating privacy laws, as well as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by keeping a log of user locations without offering users a way to disable that.

The matter first came to light last week when two researchers said they had discovered that the iPhone collects and logs current and historical location information without user permission or warning, and stores it unencrypted on the device.

In addition to the lawsuits, the controversy has prompted lawmakers to seek an FTC probe of the issue and questions from attorneys general in Connecticut and Illinois .

After a week of silence, Apple finally spoke up about the matter, explaining in an FAQ that it was collecting the data to get more accurate location data for eventual use in a traffic database and blamed a software bug for storing an excess amount of it on the devices.

Updated 8:52 a.m. PT April 29 to include Google statement on the data collection.

 

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