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Android sued for data tracking; adds FaceTime competitor with video chat

by Kristen Nicole

It should come as little surprise that Google (GOOG) is being sued over claims that Android phones secretly record and store user data. Several days after an investigative report uncovered the data collection methods behind Android and iOS devices, both Google and Apple (AAPL) were slapped with lawsuits. In Android’s case, two Android phone users in Oakland County, MI, filed a complaint April 27 in a Detroit federal court, claiming that their HTC (2498.TW) Inspire 4G phones track their whereabouts “just as if by a tracking device for which a court-ordered warrant would ordinarily be required.”

Privacy lawsuits are nothing new for Google, but the rising popularity of smartphones is making it a much more personal matter. The Michigan plaintiffs are seeking $50 million in damages, as well as a court order requiring Google to stop tracking its products’ users, though this is likely only the beginning of public and legal backlash that will plague both Google and Apple in the coming months. Google writes to Bloomberg that it provides users with “notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location” on Android devices, and that the data is anonymized, but it’s the end users Google will really have to convince.

Google improves its product line-up

While Google faces legal battles for its data collection methods, its series of Android apps is getting longer. This week introduced video and voice chat for Google Talk, as well as a new Google Docs app. In an effort to make the Google Talk mobile app as seamless as the computer version, video and voice chat capabilities are being added. Just like your computer version, you’ll see which contacts have chat options, and who’s available online. Google Docs, on the other hand, allows you to search, edit and upload content. It’s a big step in the right direction, especially as the Android seeks more ways to natively compete with iOS devices.

With Google’s annual I/O conference coming up next month, expectations are already running high. The scrutiny of Android’s platform only seems to be increasing, especially as its tablet efforts have yet to match those of Apple. Early discussions around Google I/O 2011 hope for OS updates and a refreshed Google TV initiative, while I’m hoping to see some Android Market security and usability issues addressed.