A Lawrence man is suing Google Inc. in federal court alleging that the Internet search giant illegally obtained his personal information and conspired to use it for targeted marketing.
Attorneys for Lawrence resident James Henry Rischar filed the suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., claiming Google’s conduct violated the federal Wiretap Act. The petition is also brought as a class-action lawsuit as the attorneys are seeking to represent others who used Google’s social network known as Google+.
The complaints in Rischar’s petition appear to be related to allegations last week covered in The Wall Street Journal that Google had been bypassing privacy settings on the browser Safari, which is used on Apple products like the iPhone and iPad.
“Leading up to February 2012, Google tracked, collected and stored its users’ wire or electronic communications, including but not limited to portions of their Internet browsing history even when the users were using their Safari browsers with settings intended to block tracking user activity across the Internet,” Rischar’s attorneys alleged in the suit.
His attorneys also claim the information procured by Google while Rischar was using his Safari browser “with settings intended to block the tracking of his activity” contained personal information and/or wire or electronic communications.
“Defendant’s intentional intrusion on Plaintiff’s solitude or seclusion without his consent would be highly offensive to a reasonable person,” the attorneys claimed.
A Google spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company had not been served in the case so she could not comment. The company did provide a broader statement about the Safari issue.
“The (Wall Street) Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information,” said Rachel Whetstone, a Google senior vice president for communications and public policy.
According to Whetstone’s statement, Safari enables many features for users that rely on third parties and third-party cookies, such as “Like” buttons, but that the Safari browser contained functionality that enabled other Google cookies to be set on the browser.
“We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers,” she said. “It’s important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”
An attorney for Rischar, Stephen Gorny, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.