New Mexico Sues Google, Alleges Illegal Tracking Of Children

Google Pixel Event Logo 2017 AH 4

In short: New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit against Google, Twitter, and Android app developer Tiny Lab Productions, accusing the defendants of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by developing and marketing apps targeting children that are packed with “illegal tracking software.” The unlawfully obtained data allows the accused parties and any potential buyers of such information to profile and track children’s online activities, then use those findings for advertising purposes, the lawsuit reads.

Background: AG Balderas’s office argues many contemporary mobile games represent “a unique risk” to children due to numerous tracking algorithms designed to profile players, acknowledging that a completely reliable method for protecting children against them doesn’t exist. The new lawsuit is meant to crack down on what New Mexico officials believe are clear-cut examples of illegal behavior, with the 1998 federal act on which the litigation is based on forbidding harvesting data on children under thirteen without parental consent. As part of prepared remarks given to media last week, AG Balderas said technology giants and app developers in the United States are joining forces with the goal of “taking advantage” of children and exposing them to an “unacceptable risk” of having their information accessed by third parties who might buy, steal, or obtain it using other means (e.g. following a data leak).

Impact: Between New Mexico’s new lawsuit and accusation of dishonest Android tracking practices that already led to an official AG investigation in Arizona, Google is now facing intense scrutiny over the manner in which it monetizes its technically free services. Google Chief Privacy Officer Keith Enright is likely to be grilled over the matter next week when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is scheduled to hold a hearing on consumer data privacy. The gathering that’s taking place on Wednesday, September 26, will also be attended by representatives of Amazon, Apple, Twitter, AT&T, and Charter Communications.