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California judge rules Google must confront commingled data lawsuit

updated 08:30 pm EDT, Tue July 22, 2014

Suit makes a third attempt at suing tech company over March 2012 policy change

Google's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit that dates back to 2012 failed today, after a California district judge ruled that the search company will have to fight the breach of contract and fraud claims. The first lawsuit was dismissed last December, with the stipulation that any further pursuit would require an amended complaint. The new complaint could have been dismissed "with prejudice" after two previous complaints were dismissed by the judge.

The suit originated as a result of policy changes at Google in March 2012 that removed several individual policies. Google created a universal policy that allowed the business to combine user data from several platforms, including YouTube and Gmail. Previous policies stated that the personal identification information wouldn't be used for other purposes unless users gave the company consent.

Reuters reports that the suit will proceed, in spite of several aspects of it being dismissed. One of the claims removed stemmed from account holders that switched to non-Android devices after the policy change. United States District Judge Paul Grewal indicated that the decision to deny Google's dismissal request was a close one.

"Like Rocky rising from Apollo's uppercut in the 14th round, plaintiffs' complaint has sustained much damage, but just manages to stand," said Grewal in his decision.

Judge Grewal was responsible for dismissing the two previous complaints from the class-action lawsuit. In the order granting the motion to dismiss for the last case, Grewal gave the plaintiffs what appeared to be a final chance to head to trial after two failed attempts. The last lawsuit was dismissed after the seven plaintiffs failed to sufficiently allege any injury that could be blamed on Google. The complaint also failed to request any claim relief.

In the revised complaint that Grewal allowed to continue today, the plaintiffs target a plan from 2010 called "Emerald Sea," which Google created to remove barriers between services, according to BusinessWeek. As part of the complaint, the filing parties allege that Google "made a conscious decision to withhold from the public information pertaining to the 'Emerald Sea' plan, including Google's intention to violate all existing privacy policies that placed any limitations on Google's ability to combine information across platforms by doing precisely that, once 'Emerald Sea' became a reality."

The plaintiffs assert that Google violated previous policies by allowing the data between services to be commingled, barring users from keeping the data separate. By having no way to opt out from the policy shift, those involved in the suit claimed that their personal data was exposed. In effect, their privacy and "economic value" of their information was damaged.

The suit could affect any Android device user that downloaded at least one application through Google Play.

By Electronista Staff
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