July 12, 2020

Report: “Arizona Sues Google Over ‘Deceptive’ Location Tracking”

From the AP:

Google kept tabs on the whereabouts of its users even if they had turned off location tracking, an Arizona official alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The suit filed by Attorney General Mark Brnovich stemmed from an investigation that began after The Associated Press reported on Google’s location tracking in 2018.

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A Google spokesman said Brnovich and the “contingency fee lawyers” who brought the case have mischaracterized the company’s services.

“We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data,” the spokesman, Jose Castaneda, said in an email. “We look forward to setting the record straight.”

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More From the AZ Attorney General:

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office began its consumer fraud investigation of Google in August 2018, following an Associated Press article entitled, “Google tracks your movements, like it or not” which detailed how users are lulled into a false sense of security, believing Google provided users the ability to actually disable their Location History. Google told users that “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” But as the AP article revealed, this statement was blatantly false — even with Location History off, Google surreptitiously collects location information through other settings such as Web & App Activity and uses that information to sell ads. At the same time, Google’s disclosures regarding Web & App Activity misled users into believing that setting had nothing to do with tracking user location. Google’s account set-up disclosures made no mention of the fact that location information is collected though Web and App Activity, which is defaulted to “on,” until early-to mid-2018.

Arizona’s investigation has also revealed that Google uses deceptive and unfair practices to collect as much user information as possible and makes it exceedingly difficult for users to understand what’s being done with their data, let alone opt-out. Given the lucrative nature of Google’s advertising business, the company goes to great lengths to collect users’ location, including through presenting users with a misleading mess of settings, some of which seemingly have nothing to do with the collection of location information. According to Harvard Professor Shoshana Zuboff, “Google’s proprietary methods enable it to surveil, capture, expand, construct and claim behavioral” data “including data that users intentionally choose not to share.”

The almost 50-page complaint cites extensive testimony from Google employees given under oath and contains nearly 100 additional exhibits, including internal documents that were obtained from Google over the course of the nearly two-year investigation. The public version of the filing redacts certain information that Google has asserted is confidential; the State will be seeking to make more information public consistent with applicable court rules.

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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