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Google accused of 'deceptive' location tracking in fresh US lawsuit

The tech giant said the case is based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about its settings

Texas, Indiana, Washington State, and the District of Columbia sued Google on Monday, claiming the company’s location tracking practices invade users’ privacy.

The bipartisan coalition of attorneys general said that Google deceptively led consumers to gain access to their location data, including making it nearly impossible for users to stop their location from being tracked.

Ken Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia, said that Google has systematically deceived consumers about how their locations are tracked and used since 2014, and has misled consumers who believe they can control what information the tech giant collects about them.

Racine underlined that, in reality, there is no way for consumers to prevent Google from collecting, storing, and profiting from their location data. With the lawsuit, the attorney general is aiming to stop Google’s alleged deceptive and unlawful practices, ensure the company cannot undermine consumers’ ability to protect their privacy and seek penalties for the violations.

“I’m proud to lead this bipartisan group of attorneys general that will hold Google accountable for its deception,” said attorney general Racine. “Through this lawsuit, we will hold Google accountable, and in the process, educate consumers on how their personal data—particularly sensitive data about their physical location—is collected, stored, and monetised. This result of our collective action is that consumers, not Google, will determine how their data is or is not used.”

Racine added that Google’s business model relies on the constant surveillance of its users, with the company collecting and analysing personal and behavioural data from billions of users. He said that Google then builds detailed user profiles and sells highly targeted advertising. Location data is a key part of this business, said Racine, and is among the most sensitive and valuable information the company collects.

"The Attorneys General are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings,” a Google spokesperson told IT Pro.

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“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.”

This isn’t the first time Google has faced a lawsuit over its location tracking, as in May 2020 the attorney general of Arizona also sued the company. The lawsuit alleged that the tech giant illegally tracked Android users’ locations without their consent, even if they had manually disabled their device’s tracking features.

The attorney general claimed that the company broke the state’s consumer-protection laws as it built its software in a way that deceived device owners and ultimately led to the endowment of its advertising empire.

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