Google sued by DC and three states for ‘deceptive’ Android location tracking

silversurfer

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The attorneys general of three states and the District of Columbia are suing Google for the allegedly deceptive collection of location data on Android. The complaints, which build on a 2020 lawsuit filed by the Arizona Attorney General, allege that Google’s “complex web” of settings obfuscated whether users were sharing their location at a given moment. Furthermore, they allege Google pushed Android users with “repeated nudging, misleading pressure tactics, and evasive and deceptive descriptions” to share more information either “inadvertently or out of frustration.”

“Google falsely led consumers to believe that changing their account and device settings would allow customers to protect their privacy and control what personal data the company could access,” said DC Attorney General Karl Racine in a statement. “The truth is that contrary to Google’s representations it continues to systematically surveil customers and profit from customer data.”

Racine’s suit, filed today, accuses Google of violating DC’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. State attorneys general from Washington, Texas, and Indiana are also filing similar suits in their own jurisdictions.
The DC complaint claims that Google’s settings “purport to give consumers control over the location data Google collects and uses. But Google’s misleading, ambiguous, and incomplete descriptions of these settings all but guarantee that consumers will not understand when their location is collected and retained by Google or for what purposes.” Like the earlier lawsuit from Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the DC suit draws heavily on a 2018 Associated Press report that found “many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.”

Reached for comment, Google denied the claims in the suit, pointing to recent changes like the ability to auto-delete location history.
“The attorneys general are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings,” said Google policy spokesperson José Castañeda. “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data.”
 

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"Google has agreed to pay a total of $29.5 million to settle two different lawsuits brought by Indiana and Washington, D.C., over its "deceptive" location tracking practices.
The search and advertising giant is required to pay $9.5 million to D.C. and $20 million to Indiana after the states sued the company for charges that the company tracked users' locations without their express consent.
The settlement adds to the $391.5 million Google agreed to pay to 40 states over similar allegations last month. The company is still facing two more location-tracking lawsuits in Texas and Washington.
The lawsuits came in response to revelations in 2018 that the internet company continued to track users' whereabouts on Android and iOS through a setting called Web & App Activity despite turning Location History options off.
Google was also accused of employing dark patterns, which refer to design choices intended to deceive users into carrying out actions that violate their privacy and overshare information without their knowledge or affirmation.
"Google uses location data collected from Indiana consumers to build detailed user profiles and target ads, but Google has deceived and misled users about its practices since at least 2014," the state said in a statement last week..."
 

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