Napoleon throws down gauntlet to Google after tracking controversy

21 Aug 2018

Image: RikoBest/Shutterstock

Following the news that Android and iPhone users were tracked without their knowledge, Google has now been cited in a lawsuit.

Privacy advocates were up in arms last week after the Associated Press revealed that Google was tracking millions of people’s locations through their smartphones, even when they asked for tracking to be turned off.

While the company has now updated the explanatory language of its location tracking to make it clearer in its platforms and help centres, many have turned to helpful explainers of how to completely turn it off.

This was not enough for one person though, as Reuters reports that Google has been accused in a lawsuit of illegally tracking people.

The complaint was filed in the Californian legal system by a person named Napoleon Patacsil. As part of the lawsuit, he will seek class-action status on behalf of US Android and iPhone users who had originally switched off the tracking function.

An unspecified amount of damages is being sought by Patacsil, who said that the actions of Google violate Californian privacy laws, tantamount to an infringement of a person’s right to privacy.

‘An egregious breach of social norms’

Patacsil alleged that Google’s “principal goal was to surreptitiously monitor plaintiff and class members and to allow third-parties to do the same”.

Gizmodo also reported that Patacsil said Google’s failure to communicate just how tracking works harms users “because [the company] disclosed sensitive and confidential location information, constituting an egregious breach of social norms”.

Patacsil is not the only entity openly challenging the Alphabet subsidiary as the US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center published an open letter to the country’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The letter encouraged the FTC to open a formal investigation into Google for failing to follow a consent decree signed with the FTC in 2011.

At the time, Google promised to not engage in any privacy misrepresentations or change its privacy practices for a period of 20 years.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic