NOT SO FAST: California District Court Allows Mobile App Data Privacy Class Action Against Google to Proceed
A putative class action lawsuit against Google, alleging that the technology giant invaded the privacy of its Google Wallet customers by sharing their personal information with third-party mobile device application (“App”) developers, will forge ahead. On April 1, 2015, a California federal judge partially denied Google’s motion to dismiss claims brought against it by Plaintiff Alice Svenson, ordering the survival of claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of a state consumer protection statute.
Google Wallet is an electronic payment processing service application, which is the exclusive method used by customers to purchase Apps from the Google Play Store. The privacy policies for Google Wallet accounts specifically outline the circumstances under which a user’s “personal information” may be shared, such as processing user transactions and maintaining user accounts.
Svenson alleges that she used Google Wallet to purchase an email App for $1.77, and that Google made her personal information available to App vendor, YCDroid, “after collecting the App purchase price, retaining a thirty percent cut of the purchase price, remitting the remaining portion of the purchase price to the App vendor, and providing the buyer with a receipt.” (Order Denying Motion to Dismiss, 2:19-21.) Further, she claims that Google had a blanket practice of violating its privacy policies by sharing user personal information, including credit card information, addresses, names, telephone numbers, and email addresses, with App vendors in connection with every App purchase. Svenson contends that sharing this information was unnecessary for App administration and unauthorized by the Google Wallet Terms of Service.
In its analysis of the damages prong of Svenson’s breach of contract claim, the court considered an interesting dimunition of value argument made by the plaintiff. Essentially, Sevenson alleged that Google’s practice of sharing user personal information diminished the sales value of that information. She highlighted that there is a demand for this information, and that those damaged by this conduct “have been deprived of their ability to sell their own personal data on the market.” (Order, 9:2-5.)
The court reversed its prior ruling granting Google’s motion to dismiss. Based on Svenson’s amended complaint filed on September 2, 2014, the court found that this time around she alleged sufficient facts to properly state the persisting claims.
In light of my article last month regarding the pending review of a Georgia federal judge’s dismissal of a class action lawsuit against Cartoon Network, this case holds the door open for the increasing number of legal actions involving issues of mobile device data privacy and personal user information.
— Jessica Nwokocha