Google accused of secretly tracking disabled drivers

Google needs to hit the brakes when it comes to tracking sensitive information shared with DMV sites, a new lawsuit suggests.

Filing a proposed class action lawsuit in California, Katherine Wilson accused Google of using Google Analytics and DoubleClick trackers on the California DMV site to illegally obtain information about her personal disability without her consent.

Wilson argued that this violated the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), as well as the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), and perhaps affected millions of drivers who had no way of knowing that Google was collecting confidential information shared for DMV purposes only. .

“Google uses personal information it obtains from motor vehicle records to create profiles, categorize individuals, and obtain information about them to sell its customers the ability to create targeted marketing and advertising,” Wilson alleged.

According to Wilson, the California DMV “encourages” drivers “to use its website instead of visiting one of the DMV’s physical locations” without telling drivers that Google has trackers throughout its site.

Likely due to promoting the website’s convenience, the DMV reported a record number of online transactions in 2020, according to Wilson’s complaint. And people with disabilities have taken advantage of that convenience. In 2023, approximately “40 percent of the 1.6 million disabled parking plate renewals were done online.”

Wilson last visited the DMV site last summer when he was renewing his handicapped parking card online. At the time, she was unaware that Google obtained her personal information when she filled out her application, contacted the DMV directly, searched the site, or clicked on various URLs, all of which she claimed revealed she had a disability. or she believed that she had a disability.

Their complaint alleged that Google secretly collects information about the content of DMV users’ online searches, logging sensitive keywords such as “teenagers,” “impaired drivers” and any “disability queries.”

Google “knowingly” obtained this information, Wilson alleged, to silently expand user profiles for ad targeting, “intentionally” ignoring the “reasonable privacy expectations” of DMV website users.

“Google then uses the personal information and data to generate revenue from the advertising and marketing services it sells to businesses and individuals,” Wilson’s complaint alleges. “Not surprisingly, plaintiff and class members did not consent to Google obtaining their personal information or learning the content of their communications with the DMV.”

Congressman James P. Moran, who sponsored the DPPA in 1994, made clear that the law was enacted specifically to prevent marketers from taking advantage of computers that make it easy to “get a person’s DMV record” by simply “doing click a button”. “

Even back then, some people were instantly concerned about any potential “invasion of privacy,” Moran said, noting that “if you look at the way direct marketers classify people based on DMV information, you can see why.” “Some people may object to having their personal information sold.”

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