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Watchdog Alleges Google Leaked Personal Data To App Developers

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(credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

(credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — A consumer advocate group on Monday urged California Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate whether alleged privacy violations by Google were in violation of state law.

KNX 1070’s Vytas Safronikas reports Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog said federal regulators must also take action to prevent the search engine from sharing personal data with mobile application developers.

The allegations stem from whether Google violated the so-called “Buzz Consent Order” with the Federal Trade Commission by sending personal information to app developers about each user who purchased an app from Google — without obtaining the user’s permission.

Personal information sent by Google included the users’ names, certain physical address information and email addresses, according to John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, who added that neither Apple nor Microsoft had engaged in similar conduct.

In a seven-page formal letter of complaint to Charles A. Harwood, the FTC’s Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Simpson wrote the disclosure of personal user information to app developers has allowed Google to personally identify people who downloaded such apps as:

  • “Depression App Counselor”, an app designed to help people suffering from depression to manage their symptoms;
  • “Pregnancy+”, an app for expectant parents;
  • “Heart Disease”, an app for people concerned that they are at risk of heart disorders; and
  • “Utoopi”, a now-removed app that was previously used “for the purposes of advertising, soliciting and recruiting sex workers.”

With an estimated tens – if not hundreds – of millions of Android users affected by the breach, Simpson estimated Google would pay “billions of dollars” for what he alleged to be such a vast misuse of public data.

“Google has become a serial privacy abuser,” he said. “Every time there is a violation: $16,000. There have been millions of apps sold by Google…it’s a simple matter of multiplication.”

Click here (PDF) to read the full text of Simpson’s letter to the Federal Trade Commission.

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