JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) – A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit dismissed a lawsuit brought by Google against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, clearing the way for Hood to pursue allegations that Google profits from the personal information of school children who use G Suite for Education.
On Jan. 17, Hood announced the lawsuit against Google, alleging that one of the world’s most-recognized brands violated the state's Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Thus far, attempts to reach Google for comment have been futile. However, another legal expert familiar with the case has offered his perspective.
Attorney Braden Perry - a partner at the Kennyhertz Perry of Kansas City, Missouri and former federal prosecutor Braden - told Legal Newsline that the move by Hood is “indicative of some of Hood’s critics that he runs the AG (office) like a plaintiff’s attorney, looking for deep pockets. In fact, it has been reported that outside lawyers brought the student privacy issue to Hood based on his earlier Google publicity."
This is not the first time Google has come under fire regarding user privacy. It reached a $17 million settlement with 38 attorneys general over third party cookies in Apple's Safari web browsers.
Hood's recent complaint was filed in the Chancery Court of Lowndes County, Mississippi, alleging violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act, which is a state law claim.
According to Perry, Google has several options.
"It can answer and accept jurisdiction in Mississippi and defending as a typical civil suit; move to dismiss, or likely, move to remove the action from the Chancery Court to federal court based on diversity of jurisdiction and federal question," he said.
A concern with Google is how it could potentially profit from the information of students’ online behavior. Perry feels that most students do not understand the complexities surrounding online privacy.
“There’s a significant interest in the amount of data Google maintains and the way they use it," Perry said. "It’s difficult to think of a similar situation where a public company holds vast amounts of personal data. There are concerns about the mining and marketing, especially with children.
"The rationale has been that as adults, we can choose to have an online presence, and who we use for internet searches, etc. But many educational programs use Google products or products where Google may mine, and some students have no choice.”
What concerns Hood the most is how to protect “the rights and interests of all Mississippians,” he stated in a release. Additionally, his goal is to seek a court order requiring Google to cease all unlawful practices regarding the alleged misuse of personal information.