Jan 24, 2022 - Technology

States, D.C. allege Google deceives users to obtain location data

Picture of Google logo with a person standing in front of it holding a phone

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Attorneys general in Washington, D.C., Texas, Indiana and Washington state are suing Google for allegedly deceiving consumers to obtain their location data.

Driving the news: The lawsuit alleges that Google uses "dark patterns, including repeated nudging, misleading pressure tactics, and evasive and deceptive descriptions of location features and settings, to cause users to provide more and more location data (inadvertently or out of frustration)."

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Ashley Gold: State attorneys general have been flexing power to try to reel in tech giants because they argue the federal government can’t do it fast enough.

  • Some attempts have resulted in varying degrees of success. Some similar lawsuits have not been successful at all.

What they're saying: D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine argued that Google is "invading [users'] privacy."

  • "Google claims that changing your device and account settings protects your data. The truth is, since 2014, Google has systematically surveilled users no matter what settings they choose," Racine added.

Details: "Google leads consumers to believe that consumers are in control of whether Google collects and retains information about their location and how that information is used. In reality, consumers who use Google products cannot prevent Google from collecting, storing, and profiting from their location," the lawsuit says.

  • "Location data is among the most sensitive information Google collects from consumers. Even a limited amount of such data, gathered over time, can expose a person’s identity and routines."
  • Google uses consumers' location data "to sell advertising that is 'targeted' to consumers according to personal details Google has learned about them, including their demographics, habits, and interests," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuits are seeking to force Google to stop engaging in the allegedly deceptive practices and to fine the company.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda said in a statement, "[t]he Attorneys General are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings."

  • "We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the record straight," he added.
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