Culture

Google is being sued (again) for ‘blatant lies’ about user privacy

“Even when it promises to look away, Google is watching. Every click, every website, every app — our entire virtual lives. Intercepted. Tracked. Logged. Compiled. Packaged. Sold for profit.”

Boies Schiller Flexner LLP in a lawsuit it's filed against Google

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Law firm Boies Schiller Flexner has filed a lawsuit against Google for secretly gathering user data from mobile users, including when those users aren’t using Google’s suite of apps. The lawsuit, a full copy of which was seen by Law360, calls Google a “voyeur extraordinaire.”

“Google is always watching,” the lawsuit states. “Google in fact intercepts, tracks, collects and sells consumer mobile app browsing history and activity data regardless of what safeguards or ‘privacy settings’ consumers undertake to protect their privacy.”

This is not the first time Google has been accused of using underhanded data-collection techniques — not by far. This new suit is actually the second privacy-related lawsuit Google has faced in just the last month and a half; in early June a class-action suit was filed against the company, accusing it of misrepresenting how its private browsing modes operate.

No one except for Google really knows the intricacies of how, exactly, the company collects and tracks user data — never mind understanding the extent of the data being collected. These lawsuits are a reminder that, as always, the public deserves more transparency from a company that's become so integral to people's daily lives.

What’s the accusation, exactly? — The new suit centers its arguments around Google’s Firebase SDK, an application programming interface (API) that allows developers to integrate monetization tools into their apps.

According to the lawsuit, Google leaves developers “no choice” but to use the Firebase SDK as a backend solution. The Firebase SDK is actually the part of another ongoing legal investigation, this one focusing on the API as an antitrust issue. On the topic of that case, sources told Reuters that Google has made it difficult for Android apps to function without Firebase tools in recent years.

More transparency, please — Google hasn’t yet commented on the new lawsuit, though the company is likely to adopt the same tactics it has in other privacy lawsuits: denial. Google is contesting the Firebase antitrust lawsuit, denying that the API is anything but optional for developers.

The outcome of these cases is murky at best — but the fact remains that many people are worried enough about Google’s data-collection methods that they’re willing to file lawsuits against the company. It’s a sign that no matter the outcome, Google still has a long way to go in being transparent in which data is being collected from users — not just in its own suite of apps but across the numerous properties it owns.