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States Bring Lawsuit Against Google Over Privacy Concerns

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Three U.S. states and Washington D.C. are reportedly now suing internet search engine Google over location-tracking privacy concerns.

According to The New York Post, Texas, Indiana, Washington State and Washington D.C. filed the lawsuit on Monday. The states and D.C. stated the lawsuit is over what they call dark partners. Which are deceptive location-tracking practices that invade users’ privacy. The patterns in account setting trick users into giving up detailed location data. This in return, helps the company make money by sharing targeting online ads more effectively. 

The Attorneys General in the three states and Washington D.C. declare in the suit, “By repeatedly ‘nudging’ users to enable Google Account Settings, Google increases the chances that a user will enable the setting inadvertently or out of frustration.”

The suit also reveals that Google is giving users “misleading, ambiguous, and incomplete descriptions” of other location and privacy settings. This leads to some users believing they weren’t sharing data with the company. Even when they were actually sharing the data. 

Meanwhile, the Attorneys General state that these kinds of practices harm consumers who wish to protect their sensitive information from Google and the search engine’s advertising customers. “By making it difficult for consumers to deny Google access to their location information. Regardless of whether that information is needed to private services to the consumer.”

The Attorneys General add that Google has been violating consumer protection laws. They are now seeking to fine the company, as well as bar it from continuing such practices. 

Google Responds to the Location-Sharing Lawsuit 

Following the news about the lawsuit, Google spokesperson, José Castañeda, issued a statement to the New York Post about the situation. “The Attorneys General are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings.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.”

The Google spokesperson went on to explain that Google has updated the way it stores and communicates to users about location settings. This includes letting the user automatically delete location data on a regular basis. This feature began in June 2019. 

CNBC also reports that in June 2020, Google offered an auto-delete default for new accounts. The company has made other changes to limit the way it collects location data. Especially when users search on the internet search engine.  

Google further shares some comments from a judge in a similar case from the Attorney General from Arizona. The judge wrote in a recent filing, “A reasonable fact-finder could find that a reasonable, or even an unsophisticated, consumer, would understand that at least some location is collected through means other than [location history].”