Google faces USD 5 Billion Class Action Lawsuit, Kerala HC and Delhi HC seek clarification on Arogya Setu App, Enforcement of Data Protection Law Eased in UK and more.
Google faces USD 5 Billion Class Action Lawsuit
Google and its parent company, Alphabet, are both being sued for allegedly invading the privacy of its users even while they were browsing on the search engine with the incognito mode turned on. The incognito mode within Google’s Chrome browser gives users the choice to search the internet without their activity being saved to the browser or device. However, their online searches and website visits can still be tracked by using tools like Google Analytics.
This class action suit includes several users who have been using Google’s incognito mode since 1st June, 2016, and claim that Google has stored their Google Chrome browser search history, within the incognito mode. As per the lawsuit, the users have stated that Google, “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone”. In response to the lawsuit Google has stated that collection of the search history data within the incognito mode, is not illegal and that the search engine giant, has made the users aware of the same.
The class action lawsuit, is demanding atleast USD 5 billion, from Google and Alphabet.
Kerala HC and Delhi HC seek clarification on Arogya Setu App
In order to curb the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases in India, the Arogya Setu mobile application, was developed by the National Informatics Center, for the contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in the country. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), has made the use of the Arogya Setu app mandatory for all employees belonging to both the private and public sector. It will be the responsibility of the head of each organisation to ensure that all its employees are using the app. Since this application will collect a large amount of personal data from its users, a lot of citizens have shown concern over privacy issues related to such data. Following this, the Kerala High Court, expressed similar concerns and asked the Central Government if it could confirm that all the data collected through the Arogya Setu app will not be misused. A division bench which was presiding over this matter has declined to pass any interim order against the mandatory imposition of the app on employees. The Central Government Counsel informed the bench that the data protocol norms were being formulated to address the privacy concerns. However, the direction given by the MHA with regard to the mandatory use of the Arogya Setu app, has been challenged in a writ petition as being violative of right to privacy and personal autonomy.
The Delhi High Court has also asked the Central Government to respond to a plea filed, with regard to linking the Arogya Setu app to a website for E-pharmacies. In the petition filed by the South Chemists & Distributors Association, in the Delhi High Court, the Union of India has been asked to respond to the issue of not listing licensed offline pharmacies as well on the website arogyasetumitr.in. The South Chemists & Distributors Association have stated in their plea that linking only a select few E-pharmacies on the Arogya Setu website is discriminatory and arbitrary and will negatively impact the businesses of offline pharmacies. Additionally, the court had also questioned the lack of local pharmacy store listings on the Arogya Setu app and the requirements to be listed on the app. The court directed the Central Government to ensure that medication available from the local pharmacies for COVID-19, is also listed on the Arogya Setu app.
Enforcement of Data Protection Law Eased in UK
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is UK’s independent authority to monitor data protection, has stated that it will relax the enforcement of UK’s data protection law, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement has been made, keeping in mind the underlying principle of data protection law which states that “the processing of personal data should be designed to serve mankind”. The Information Commissioner, stated that the UK data protection law was implemented in order to help the public and to that extent the law is flexible and shall in no way restrict public interest or public health and safety.
Additionally, the ICO is coordinating with Apple and Google, with regard to their work to support Contact Tracing initiatives. The ICO will ensure that Apple and Google are constantly reviewing privacy issues and considering the associated public interest issues. Following this, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) also supported the ICO in their effort to relax the enforcement of the data law, and to avoid compromising public interest or public security.
DOJ and FTC Issue Joint Statement Regarding COVID-19
The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), have issued a joint statement informing the public that firms and competitors can engage in certain “procompetitive collaboration that does not violate the antitrust laws.” The respective anti-trust departments of both, the DOJ and FTC, stated that they will be working towards providing businesses and individuals all the guidance and information that they require, in order to comply with federal laws. The DOJ and FTC acknowledged that due to the critical situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, join-ventures will be essential so that businesses can pool their resources and bring the required to bring goods to communities in need, to expand existing capacity, or to develop new products or services.
Another business review letter issued by the Antitrust Division of the DOJ to five pharmaceutical and medical/surgical distributors, states that the DOJ will provide such companies with antitrust enforcers’ views on competitor collaborations aimed at improving product access to respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. DOJ has no present intention to challenge a collaboration among five medical/surgical and pharmaceutical distributors that are working with federal government agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to facilitate the acquisition and distribution of critical supplies to US healthcare providers.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels)
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