For several years the enormous political lobbying power wielded by Google has meant that it has been pretty much impervious from any legal assault in the US. Add to that the intense fear which all California lawmakers have about offending or scaring off the Silicon Valley Golden Goose. Even in cases where they exploit their clear monopoly the Google ship of state has sailed on regardless. So it was with some surprise that I read about the decision they lost this week. The case is incredibly inside baseball. Back in 2012 in an attempt to catch up to the cavalier but very successful approach towards end user data used by Facebook, Google consolidated their various end user terms and conditions. In so doing the complainers allege that end user data was compromised leaving users open to identity theft or harassment. Was there any actual harm…I doubt it…but that never stopped anyone exploiting our legal system. The judge did kick out a bunch of smaller sillier provisions but the central complaint stands and Google will have to answer it in court.
On a cursory examination of the facts it certainly looks like Google fumbled the ball by making the changes without asking for opt in permission from their users. At the very least they should have told us clearly…but who reads the small print nowadays…lord knows what I’ve agreed to over the years . For all I know Apple my have rights to my first born by now. So now the case grinds forwards. Will it eventually fall apart because the harm involved was so small and so hard to prove that another judge will eventually put it out of its misery? Perhaps…but I really wasn’t using my end user privacy anyway.