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Google Sued For Data Mining In Kenya

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A non-governmental organisation has sued tech giant Google over alleged privacy violations by illegally tracking Android users and collecting personal information.

The internet search company is also being accused of breaching Kenya’s data protection laws by illegally invading the privacy of users and collecting their biometric information.

The class-action lawsuit has been filed by the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action (ACCPA) together with 31 users. They have also sued the Attorney-General, the ICT Cabinet Secretary, the Data Commissioner and the Communication Authority of Kenya.

The lawsuit that was filed yesterday through lawyer Karugu Mbugua at the High Court in Milimani, Nairobi, alleges that Google, through the Global Positioning System (GPS), “is … able to track the movement of Android users without their explicit consent”.

Suit notice appearing on local dailies.

It further alleges that Google’s cloud-based platform, The Google Photos app, which comes pre-installed on all Google Android devices, is set to automatically upload and store all photos taken by the Android device user.

The claimants, who allege that the personal data is shared with third parties, are seeking damages for the alleged breach of privacy and a declaration that the lawsuit is a “public interest case”.

Right to privacy

The lawsuit also seeks a declaration that Google’s actions contravene provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy. The claimants have trained their sights on Google Search Engine, Gmail, Google Maps and Google Photos.

“Once the personal data is uploaded … on Google Photos, the photos are [analysed through] artificial intelligence for unique points and contours (i.e biometric identifiers) of each individual face. Then it uses the data to create and store a template of each face without informing the user of this practice,” the claimants say in their court papers.

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“These unique face templates are also used to recognise individuals’ gender, age and location. Google has a set of functions and procedures allowing the creation of applications that access the features or data of an operating system where third parties can access personal data stored,” says the claimants.

“Google also runs a digital distribution service dubbed Google Play Store and which … allows users to browse and download applications developed with the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) and published through Google.”

The respondents are yet to file their responses to the suit as it is yet to get hearing directions.

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