Google sued by Android user over privacy changes

Google today officially launches its new unified privacy policy, which has been the source of much discussion and debate in recent weeks, as the impact of its changes comes into focus. The new policy will see a single set of terms and conditions applied for dozens of Google services, including YouTube and Gmail. This week, France's data protection watchdog again cast doubt on the legality of the new policy, while the Japanese government urged the company to tread with caution in implementing it there.

Today, a British privacy campaigner has filed a claim against Google in small claims court for approximately £400 GBP ($638 USD / €479 EUR) to replace his current HTC Desire handset. Alex Hanff claims that the introduction of the new privacy policy constitutes an unfair change of the terms and conditions to which he agreed when he purchased the Android smartphone. Hanff told The Telegraph: “The changes are a significant infringement of my right to privacy and I do not consent to Google being able to use my data in such a way.”

Citing examples such as that of France raising concerns with Google CEO Larry Page, Hanff accuses the company of “telling regulators where to go”, adding that Google has “basically stuck two fingers up” at any interested party that has attempted to voice reservations over the changes. Lawmakers in the US have also called for Google to postpone its measures, but these calls too have fallen upon deaf ears. “Hopefully my case will open an avenue for other consumers to take similar action,” Hanff added.

While Google obviously wouldn't be drawn on the specifics of Mr Hanff's case, the company did state that “users can choose not to log in to an Android phone with a Google account, and still use it to place phone calls, send text messages, browse the web and use certain Google applications that do not require account authentication such as Google Maps”. Whether or not this defence will be sufficiently robust against the pending court action remains to be seen.

But what would Mr Hanff replace his HTC Desire with? Well, he didn't specify a particular model, but he was clear that a Windows Phone is the way forward for him. In his words: “There's not much choice, but I wouldn't want to be subject to Apple's privacy policy, and Microsoft's seems the least threatening at the moment.”

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