Google faces a second class-action lawsuit related to alleged clandestine tracking in apps

By: Claude Khoury

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – A lawsuit seeking class-action status alleged on Tuesday that Alphabet Incorporated’s (GOOGL.O) Google records what users are doing on hundreds of thousands of mobile apps. This is allegedly occurring even when they follow Google’s recommended settings for disabling such monitoring.

The data privacy lawsuit is the second filed in the last two months against Google by the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner on behalf of a number of individual consumers. Their clients have also included Google competitors such as Facebook Inc. (FB.O) and Oracle Corp (ORCL.N).

The new complaint filed in the San Jose U.S. district court accuses Google of violating federal wiretap law and California privacy law by logging what users are looking at in ride-hailing apps, news, and other types of apps despite them having opted out and disabling “Web & App Activity” tracking in their Google account settings.

The lawsuit alleges the data collection happens through Google’s Firebase. Firebase is a set of software popular among app makers for storing data, delivering notifications and ads, and tracking clicks and reporting on glitches. Firebase typically operates within the apps while being invisible to users.

According to the lawsuit, Google uses some Firebase data to improve its products and personalize ads and other content for consumers.

“Even when consumers follow Google’s own instructions and turn off ‘Web & App Activity’ tracking on their ‘Privacy Controls,’ Google nevertheless continues to intercept consumers’ app usage and app browsing communications and personal information,” claims the lawsuit.

Reuters reported in March that U.S. antitrust investigators are looking into whether Google has unlawfully suppressed competition in advertising and other businesses by effectively making Firebase inescapable.

Additionally, Boies Schiller Flexner in its case last month accused Google of secretly recording Chrome browser users’ activity even when they activated what Google calls Incognito mode. Google has stated it will fight the claim.

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