Calhoun v. Google LLC

Decision Date17 March 2021
Docket NumberCase No. 20-CV-05146-LHK
Parties Patrick CALHOUN, et al., Plaintiffs, v. GOOGLE LLC, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

526 F.Supp.3d 605

Patrick CALHOUN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GOOGLE LLC, Defendant.

Case No. 20-CV-05146-LHK

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division.

Signed March 17, 2021


526 F.Supp.3d 612

Adam J. Levitt, Amy E. Keller, Pro Hac Vice, DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC, Chicago, IL, Aaron L. Schwartz, Pro Hac Vice, Kaplan Fox and Kilsheimer LLP, An V. Truong, Pro Hac Vice, Mitchell M. Breit, Pro Hac Vice, Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, David A. Straite, DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC, New York, NY, Angelica Maria Ornelas, Joshua David Samra, Lesley Elizabeth Weaver, Bleichmar Fonti & Auld LLP, Laurence D. King, Mario M. Choi, Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, Oakland, CA, Eric Steven Johnson, Pro Hac Vice, Simmons Hanly Conroy, Alton, IL, Jay Barnes, Pro Hac Vice, St. Louis, MO, for Plaintiffs Patrick Calhoun, Elaine Crespo, Hadiyah Jackson, Claudia Kindler.

Adam J. Levitt, Amy E. Keller, Pro Hac Vice, DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC, Chicago, IL, Angelica Maria Ornelas, Lesley Elizabeth Weaver, Bleichmar Fonti & Auld LLP, Mario M. Choi, Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, Oakland, CA, David A. Straite, DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC, New York, NY, for Plaintiffs Leroy Randolph, Dr. Corinice Wilson, Dr. Rodney Johnson, Michael Henry, Jose Maria de Guzman.

Adam J. Levitt, Amy E. Keller, Pro Hac Vice, DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC, Chicago, IL, An V. Truong, Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, David A. Straite, DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC, New York, NY, Angelica Maria Ornelas, Lesley Elizabeth Weaver, Bleichmar Fonti & Auld LLP, Mario M. Choi, Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, Oakland, CA, for Plaintiff Nicholas Genova.

Andrew H. Schapiro, Pro Hac Vice, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, Chicago, IL, Carl Spilly, Pro Hac Vice, Washington, DC, Jomaire Alicia Crawford, Pro Hac Vice, Josef Teboho Ansorge, Pro Hac Vice, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, New York, NY, Jonathan Sze Ming Tse, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan LLP, San Francisco, CA, Stephen Andrew Broome, Viola Trebicka, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, Los Angeles, CA, Thao T. Thai, Redwood Shores, CA, for Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

Re: Dkt. No. 57

LUCY H. KOH, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs Patrick Calhoun, Elaine Crespo, Hadiyah Jackson, and Claudia Kindler (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, sue Defendant Google LLC ("Google").

526 F.Supp.3d 613

Before the Court is Google's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint. ECF No. 57. Having considered the parties’ submissions and oral arguments, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Google's motion to dismiss with leave to amend.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

1. Google's Alleged Collection of Plaintiffs’ Data

Plaintiffs are users of Google's Chrome browser who allege that they "chose not to ‘Sync’ their [Chrome] browsers with their Google accounts while browsing the web ... from July 27, 2016 to the present." ECF No. 1 ("Compl.") ¶ 1. Chrome's Sync feature enables users to store their personal information by logging into Chrome with their Google account. Id. ¶ 39.1

Plaintiffs allege that "Chrome sends ... personal information to Google when a user exchanges communications with any website that includes Google surveillance source code ... regardless of whether a user is logged-in to Google Sync or not." Id. ¶ 134 (emphasis omitted). According to Plaintiffs, Google's code "is found on websites accounting for more than half of all internet tracking" and "Chrome is ... used on a majority [59%] of desktop computers in the United States, giving Google unprecedented power to surveil the lives of more than half of the online country in real time." Id. ¶¶ 9, 194.

Plaintiffs allege Google collects five different types of personal information: (1) "The user's unique, persistent cookie identifiers"; (2) "The user's browsing history in the form of the contents of the users’ GET requests and information relating to the substance, purport, or meaning of the website's portion of the communication with the user"; (3) "In many cases, the contents of the users’ POST communications"; (4) "The user's IP address and User-Agent information about their device"; and (5) The user's X-Client Data Header. Id. ¶ 134.

First, according to Plaintiffs, Google collects "[t]he user's unique, persistent cookie identifiers." Id. ¶ 134. "A cookie is a small text file that a web-server can place on a person's web browser and computing device when that person's web browser interacts with the website server." Id. ¶ 55. According to Plaintiffs, "[c]ookies are designed to and, in fact, do operate as a means of identification for Internet users." Id. ¶ 57. Plaintiffs allege that "Google uses several cookies to identify specific Internet users and their devices." Id. ¶ 61. Plaintiffs further allege that "Google also engages in a controversial practice known as ‘cookie synching’ which further allows Google to associate cookies with specific individuals." Id. ¶ 62.

Second, Plaintiffs allege that Google collects "[t]he user's browsing history in the form of the contents of the users’ GET requests and information relating to the substance, purport, or meaning of the website's portion of the communication with the user." Id. ¶ 134. A GET request is one of "[t]he basic commands that Chrome uses to send the users’ side of a communication." Id. ¶ 114. When a user types a website address or clicks a link to a website,

526 F.Supp.3d 614

"Chrome contacts the website ... and sends a [GET request]." Id. ¶ 115. According to Plaintiffs, Chrome "[p]laces the contents of [a] GET ... request in storage in the browser's web-browsing history and short-term memory." Id. ¶ 117. Chrome allegedly stores the contents of the communication "so that, if the user's web-browser crashes unexpectedly, when the user re-starts their browser, the browser will be able to offer the user the ability to return to their last communications prior to the browser's crash." Id. ¶ 118.

Third, Plaintiffs allege that Google collects "[i]n many cases, the contents of the users’ POST communications." Id. ¶ 134. Like a GET request, a POST request is one of "[t]he basic commands that Chrome uses to send the users’ side of a communication." Id. ¶ 114. "If ... [a] user were filling out a form on [a] website and clicks a button to submit the information in the form, Chrome ... makes [a] connection with the website server [and] ... sends a ‘POST’ request that includes the specific content that the user placed in the form." Id. ¶ 116. According to Plaintiffs, Chrome "[p]laces the contents of [a] ... POST request in storage in the browser's web-browsing history and short-term memory." Id. ¶ 117. Chrome allegedly stores the contents of the communication "so that, if the user's web-browser crashes unexpectedly, when the user re-starts their browser, the browser will be able to offer the user the ability to return to their last communications prior to the browser's crash." Id. ¶ 118.

Fourth, according to Plaintiffs, Google collects "[t]he user's IP address and User-Agent information about their device." Id. ¶ 134. "An IP address is a number that identifies a computer connected to the Internet." Id. ¶ 47. "IP addresses of individual Internet users are used by Internet service providers, websites, and tracking companies to facilitate and track Internet communications." Id. ¶ 50. Plaintiffs allege that "Google tracks IP addresses associated with specific Internet users" and "associate[s] specific users with IP addresses." Id. ¶¶ 51–52. Plaintiffs further allege that "[b]ecause Google collects the IP Address and user agent information together, Google can identify a user's individual device even if more than one device shares the same IP address." Id. ¶ 54.

Finally, Plaintiffs allege that Google collects the user's X-Client Data Header. Id. ¶ 134. The X-Client Data Header "is an identifier that when combined with IP address and user-agent, uniquely identifies every individual download version of the Chrome browser." Id. ¶ 69. Plaintiffs allege that, as of March 6, 2018, the X-Client Data Header "is sent from Chrome to Google every time users exchange an Internet communication, including when users log-in to their specific Google accounts, use Google services such as Google search or Google maps, and when Chrome users are neither signed-in to their Google accounts nor using any Google service." Id. ¶ 70.

2. Google's Representations to Plaintiffs

According to Plaintiffs, "Google expressly promises Chrome users that they ‘don't need to provide any personal information to use Chrome,’ and that ‘[t]he personal information that Chrome stores won't be sent to Google unless you choose to store that data in your Google Account by turning on sync[.]’ " Id. ¶ 2. Conversely, Google contends that it explicitly disclosed the alleged data collection. Mot. at 3–5. Four documents are of particular relevance regarding Google's representations to users: (1) Google's Terms of Service; (2) Google's Privacy...

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