Court upholds Privacy Policy Lawsuit Against Google, For Now..

In the tech world, Google may be the 800-pound gorilla that usually gets its way, but that doesn’t mean the federal court system is going to roll over and play dead when it comes to possible privacy concerns about tech behemoth’s actions when it uses personal data across its various platforms and tools.

A federal judge rejected the search engine giant’s request to dismiss a privacy lawsuit in California that alleged Google acted inappropriately when it decided to update different privacy policies from it’s wide range of products into one single unified policy, a policy that would allow Google to to merge user data gathered from multiple different tools, including the Android mobile operating system. The suit accuses Google of making this change without the consent of the users, many of whom had agreed to different privacy policies than the new one. According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, Google not only made this unauthorized change which would expose user’s information potentially to third parties without informed consent, but that Google still continues to provide no way for consumers affected by the change to “opt-out”.

While having one giant database of user data to crunch in an era of “big data” is no doubt appealing to companies like Google, there is getting to be more push back from angry consumers, some of it leading to litigation. Lawyers have had to be creative though, as the current state of the law is still trying to come to terms with how to value a person’s right to privacy when they have willingly engaged with a website. While some suits have had success in making companies like Amazon change their tracking behavior, Plaintiffs still face an uphill battle in getting compensated by the legal system for privacy issues.

Even when these cases are able to be filed in courts and survive summary judgment motions from the big tech companies, there is a perception problem of what actual “harm” they have suffered (especially in some less meritorious cases) when a website the user chose to go to didn’t alert them of cookie tracking, or provide an written Privacy Policy that the vast majority of website visitors will simply never view. Where no financial data is breached, and the “victim” can point towards no monetary loss, lawsuits are unlikely to be costly to these companies, and they have little incentive to change their behavior.

With this resistance by the courts to award more than nominal damages in such suits, privacy advocates are getting increasingly concerned by the courts’ “no harm done” view that arises because it is difficult for the “victims” to point towards actual economic damage when their personally identifiable information is at stake. in a post-Snowden era, consumers (and their attorneys) are showing far more resistance to violations of the privacy policies written by the very same tech companies that are now attempting to skirt them to maximize revenue.