Suit Challenging Google Privacy Policy Flatlines

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July 16 — Users of Android mobile devices who alleged that Google Inc. commingled user data across its different products and shared the data with third parties contrary to prior privacy promises lack standing to challenge the company's practices, a federal district court ruled July 15.

In dismissing the case without further leave to amend, Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said that the plaintiffs insufficiently alleged an injury in fact in their third amended complaint because they “claim injury without alleging any actual disclosure to third parties from Plaintiffs' own devices.”

In January 2012, Google announced that it would share, and track, user information across its e-mail, social networking, YouTube, search engine and other services, as part of a plan to integrate multiple privacy policies into one policy.

Following the move, Google immediately faced scrutiny from regulators around the world—including several enforcement fines—as well as lawsuits from consumers. The Dutch data protection authority recently extended a deadline for Google to change its unified privacy policy system to seek explicit consent from users or face fines of up to 15 million euros ($16.3 million).

No Allegations of Data Dissemination 

In this putative class action by consumers against Google, the court had already dismissed all but two remaining claims, a breach of contract claim and a fraudulent unfair competition claim. The court said the plaintiffs' only injury in fact was the depletion of battery and bandwidth resulting from transmissions of personal information from Android devices to third parties.

This time, the court said that “in taking the leave the court granted to amend their claims, Plaintiffs managed something unusual: they pled themselves out of a case.”

The plaintiffs no longer allege that the transmissions that deplete battery and bandwidth occur from their phones or that such transmissions went to a third party, and thus they “have no evidence of concrete, particularized and actual or imminent ‘injury-in-fact,' ” the court said. Nor do they allege any economic injury from the dissemination of their information, the court added.

Moreover, the court said that the plaintiffs' alleged battery and bandwidth injuries aren't fairly traceable to the breach and unfair competition claims. It also said any injury wouldn't be redressable. “No past or future change to merchant queries or receipt of information would alter the battery or bandwidth consumed in purchasing an app,” it said.

Gardy & Notis LLP, Grant & Eisenhofer PA and Bursor & Fisher PA served as interim co-lead counsel for the class and subclasses. Durie Tangri LLP represented Google.

Full text of the court's opinion is available at