Google is being sued by the attorneys general of three different states, as well as by the District of Columbia, for the (allegedly) deceptive collection of users’ location data on Android devices. The complaints from the attorneys general are built on a lawsuit from the Arizona Attorney General from 2020, which alleged that Google’s complex locating system can be confusing for users trying to figure out whether they’re sharing their location with the corporation at a given moment. Aside from that, the attorneys general also alleged that the corporation was presenting users of Android devices with constant nudging, evasive or deceptive descriptions, and misleading pressure strategies to share more of their location information.
In a statement, the DC Attorney General Karl Racine said that Google has been falsely leading users to believe that when they change their device or account settings, their privacy is protected. When changing their account or device settings, users have believed that the corporation wouldn’t be able to access all of their personal information, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In the statement, Racine said that Google continues to constantly surveil its customers and profit from the data collection, unlike doing what the corporation is trying to represent itself as doing regarding data collection.
Basis for Claims
The suit that Racine filed accuses Google of violating the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act, and a similar suit has been filed by the state attorneys general in Washington, Indiana, and Texas. The complaint also claimed that the settings from Google falsely claim to give the users full control over the location data that the corporation is collecting and using.The ambiguous, incomplete, or misleading descriptions regarding those location tracking settings aren’t clear to consumers, which means they may not understand when their location is being tracked and retained by Google, or for what reason. The suit is heavily based on a 2018 report from the Associated Press, similar to the earlier Arizona lawsuit. In that report, the AP found plenty of Google’s services on both iOS and Android devices store users’ location data, even when consumers use the privacy setting that states Google is prevented from doing so.
So far, Google has denied all of the claims from the lawsuit and pointed the public and media outlets to its recent changes to its settings features, including allowing users to auto-delete their location history. According to Google’s policy spokesperson, José Castañeda, the entire case was based on inaccurate claims, as well as on “outdated assertions” regarding the corporations’ user privacy settings . The spokesperson also stated that Google has always built privacy features into its own products, and provided users great control over their location data.