New Hampshire couple sues Google over alleged phone hijacking
Employee of company’s repair vendor charged with taking control of couple’s phone, accounts
An unnamed New Hampshire couple are suing Google and its repair company because an employee allegedly posted an intimate picture of them to their contacts, disrupting their lives and the woman’s startup business. The suit, filed Nov. 29 in U.S. District Court in Concord by “John and Jane Doe,” names Goggle LLC and KMT Wireless LLC – doing business as Cynergy, a Texas Google vendor – and other entities and employees, particularly “Employee X.” It was filed by Lyons Law Office, a Portsmouth firm.
This is what happened, according to the complaint:
The digital trauma started on Nov. 30, 2021, after the couple returned from a half-hour walk with their dogs. They were bombarded with calls and messages and soon learned that an “extremely graphic and sexual” photograph depicting them in a “highly personal and private moment” was posted to Jane’s Instagram account, her Facebook page and an account Jane maintains for her business, with 2,300 to 2,400 followers.
After taking down the photo, they realized the photo came from Jane’s phone, which, under John’s name, was being repaired at Cynergy’s Texas facility, under Google’s “preferred care plan.”
When John – who works in the tech industry – tried to log in to the couple’s Google account, someone had changed the password, as well as the account language, to Spanish. John tried to change it again, but it required authorization but the phone required was controlled by “Employee X,” who immediately tried to lock John out of the account.
“John and Employee X battled for approximately 30-40 minutes,” the complaint says, but John wrested control, and then using “find my device” located the phone at the office of Cynergy in Texas and remotely swiped the device.
After John posted about the incident, he learned that a similar thing happened to a prominent game designer who had also had her Google phone repaired at a Texas facility. But that person got Google‘s immediate attention. It took Google Customer Care until Dec. 5 to contact the Does and no explanation about what happened was provided.
Meanwhile, the couple learned that Employee X sent an insulting and profanity-laced text message to one of Jane’s business contacts, sent a small amount of money (presumably as a test) through the couple’s PayPal account to an unknown third party, clicked on ad for a credit card as well as access to a pornography site using the phone.
The latter was particularly disturbing, since the couple had other intimate photos saved on their Google photo account.
In addition to the humiliation, the incident was disruptive to Jane’s business, says the complaint. Jane works in retail, but in 2020 started up a business that supplies local companies with vending machines that dispense arts. She had placed her first vending machine and had eight artists signed up. About 100 people unfollowed her as a result of the photo. The complaint adds she couldn’t go into work for a long time and lost weight due to all the stress and trauma.
The suit charges the companies and the unnamed entities and employees with 24 counts of negligent hiring and supervision, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and the violation of the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act. The latter charge includes an automatic referral to the New Hampshire attorney general and would entitle the couple to triple damages.
Cynergy, a private repair company founded in 1999, is located in Grapevine, Texas, with 200 to 500 employees, according to its LinkedIn page. Attorneys for Alphabet, parent company of Google or Cynergy have yet to make an appearance and neither have responded to NH Business Review.