Google User Sues Over Claim Toolbar Software Violates Privacy

Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular search engine, was accused in a lawsuit of violating users’ privacy rights because its Toolbar software allegedly transmits their Internet activity to the company.

The complaint, filed in federal court in San Jose, California, claims Google has misled users who download the software, used to search and browse the web, to believe they can disable features that transmit personal data to the company. The case, which seeks class-action, or group, status, was filed on behalf of Jason Weber of Brooklyn, New York.

“With products such as Toolbar, Google acquires a great deal of information about users’ Internet activities, adding to the already substantial information it acquires by providing a search engine, network advertising, and more,” according to the complaint filed Nov. 5.

Users of Google Toolbar “transmit information about themselves and their online activities to Google that they intended to keep private,” according to the complaint.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, has said automobiles equipped with cameras to collect photographs for its Street View product captured personal data from unsecured household wireless networks. The Federal Trade Commission last month ended its investigation of the practice after the company said it will improve privacy safeguards.

According to Google’s website, Toolbar features can be used without sharing personal information, except for features designed to work with a Google account. It is possible for some data, such as search queries or page addresses, to contain personally identifying information, the company said on its website.

A Google representative didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment yesterday.

The case is Weber v. Google, 10-05035, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

To contact the reporters on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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