Google sued over Android data collection

Two Michigan women are suing Google wanting $50 million and demanding that the search outfit stop selling phones with software which use GPS.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday in a US District Court in Detroit on behalf of plaintiffs Julie Brown and Kayla Molaski, who are seeking class action status for the suit.

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 has made no secret that it collects location information including GPS current location, timestamps, nearby Wi-Fi network addresses, and device Ids from Android devices.

However it said that the data was untraceable to a specific individual and if users really wanted, they could disable the GPS feature. Of course if they did they would not get much function out of maps and other location-based services.

The lawsuit is similar to the one filed against Apple filed in Florida last week which also seeks class action status. That says that Jobs’ Mob violates privacy laws, as well as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by keeping a log of user locations. Jobs’ Mob data is not encrypted and the storage function continues to operate even if GPS is switched off.

The suit against Google might be harder to prove. Data which was stored on the phone was hard for a hacker to find and was not on there for long before it was wiped. A stalker would have to get hold of the phone and know what they are doing to get the tracking data. If they had the phone, they might have found it easier just to read the person’s address book rather than scan their way through mobile phone tracking logs.

Much of the data transfer was part of the normal operation of a GPS service, which many customers want too.