Posted in Legal Troubles, War on Privacy

Class action lawsuit filed against Google over Android tracking

About time:

Following a class-action suit brought by two Tampa men targeting Apple over alleged user tracking, Google is facing a similar class action lawsuit filed in Detroit on Wednesday.

The plaintiffs in the Detroit suit evidently have a case of buyer’s remorse.

Last week developers also revealed that Android devices keep a similar cache of cell tower and WiFi data, though Android limits the amount of data to 50 recently accessed cell towers and 200 recently accessed WiFi networks. Like iOS devices, a person would need to “root” (similar to “jailbreaking”) an Android device to get the data, but in contrast to iPhones this data isn’t synced to a computer.

More disconcerting, however, is the fact that Android devices collect “its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour,” according to research by security expert Samy Kamkar. Google said it uses this data for a variety of uses, but unlike Apple, Android attaches a unique ID number to the data. While that ID number is effectively random and can’t be directly linked to a particular device or user, it is possible to analyze such data and correlate it to particular individuals using increasingly advanced “deanonymization” techniques.

Variety of uses, ha. That’s basically Google’s polite way of saying, we’re invading your privacy to monetize you because that’s the business model we think will make us billions.

Google is correct in one sense: People who are using Android are effectively “opting in” to Google’s surveillance regime. But the thing is, Google is not being upfront with people who are purchasing Android phones about the existence of the regime. Furthermore, what goes on inside of Google’s datacenters is a secret, so it’s hard to expose what Google is really up to.

Google claims to love open source. The reality is, Google only loves open source to the extent it can subjugate free software to expand its empire. Android and Chromium are just means to an end – the end being the ability to track millions of people.

Google does have several initiatives aimed at supporting open source projects, like Google Summer of Code. But Google’s business practices and policies are anything but open source. Google is a proprietary software company just like Apple or Microsoft.

The only difference is that Google is much, much better at being disarming towards people who support free software. (Microsoft has noticed this; it’s starting to copy Google’s tactics).

Just like Google Chrome, Android phones are loaded with proprietary spyware that phones home to Big Brother. Big surprise? Not to LGB, but not everyone scrutinizes Google as we do. Not everyone has the healthy skepticism that they should.

As of today, two concerned women from Detroit have joined the ranks of the skeptics. Good for them.

The initial pleadings are available from in PDF format: Brown et al v. Google, Case #2:11-cv-11867.