First California Lawsuit Over Mobile Privacy Issue Crashes

May 14, 2013 – In The News
Computer World

Scott Vernick was quoted in the Computer World article "First California Lawsuit Over Mobile Privacy Issue Crashes." While the full text can be found in the May 14, 2013, issue of Computer World, a synopsis is noted below.

In a brief ruling last week, a California state court dismissed a closely watched lawsuit charging Delta Air Lines with failure to comply with state privacy laws for mobile applications. The lawsuit, filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, alleged that Delta had violated the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) by failing to properly disclose the data collection and use policies associated with its Fly Delta smartphone app.

In the complaint, Harris noted that Fly Delta lacks a privacy policy while the app collects an extensive amount of personal information, including the user's full name, telephone number, email address and geo location data.

Delta argued that its mobile application was a service offered by the airline to customers and was therefore covered by the federal Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) of 1978. The California Superior Court Judge agreed with Delta’s claim that the ADA supersedes state statutes.

The court's action effectively ends the first lawsuit alleging that a company failed to adhere to a state's privacy laws for mobile applications.

While the dismissal of the lawsuit is a setback for Harris, few expect that it will slow down the state's plan to go after alleged violators of online privacy laws.

"Delta was not a great test case for the California AG so she will be back," said Scott Vernick.

"Any company worth its salt, and particularly mobile app developers, should make sure that they are complying with CalOPPA," he said. “Going forward, expect other states could enact and strongly enforce such rules.”