The AGs from the District of Columbia, Texas, Washington and Indiana sued Google in four separate lawsuits. Texas AG Ken Paxton and Indiana AG Todd Rokita made up the Republican half, while Washington AG Bob Ferguson and D.C. AG Karl Racine represented the Democratic Party. Paxton and Racine had already filed suits, with Ferguson and Rokita are expected to follow.
Racine said in an interview that Google "uses tricks to continuously seek to track a user's location." He added that the lawsuit he and the other AGs filed "is an overdue enforcement action against a flagrant violator of privacy and [state] laws."
"These companies have become massive and powerful to an extent where they're able to forestall reasonable regulation. That time of trickery for profits is over," Racine said.
Racine's lawsuit, which was filed on Jan. 24, argued that Google "has a powerful financial incentive to obscure the details of its location data collection practices and to make it difficult for consumers to opt out of being tracked."
"Google's ability to amass data about consumers translates to better advertising capabilities and a greater share of the multi-billion-dollar digital advertising market. The company's exhaustive surveillance practices are most effective – and therefore most lucrative – where consumers have no clear idea how to limit Google's access to their personal information." (Related: How to stop Google Chrome from mining your personal information.)
According to the D.C. top attorney's complaint, Google misled users from at least 2014 to 2019 by claiming that turning off "location history" in settings would stop the unauthorized tracking. However, location tracking still continued for users – unless they turned off the "web and app activity" option.
"Even when consumers explicitly opted out of location tracking by turning 'location history' off, Google nevertheless recorded consumers' locations via other means."
Google spokesman Jose Castaneda denounced the lawsuits in a statement. "The AGs are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings.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," he said.
Castaneda continued that the tech giant has implemented limits on data collection when users do a Google search. Instead of collecting data from a precise location, data is now collected from a general area where someone is located.
Aside from this, the Google spokesman said the firm allowed users to automatically delete location data on a regular basis starting June 2019. A year later, this became the default setting for new Google users.
"We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the record straight," said Castaneda.
The suit filed by Racine was not the first time a light was shined on Google's unauthorized location tracking. The Associated Press (AP) pointed this out in an August 2018 article, with the help of computer science researchers from Princeton University.
"The company lets you 'pause' a setting called location history … [which] will prevent the company from remembering where you've been. That isn't true. Even with location history paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. It's possible, although, laborious, to delete it."
Former Federal Communications Commission Chief Technologist and Princeton computer scientist Jonathan Mayer told AP that storing location data in violation of a user's preference is wrong. "If you're going to allow users to turn off something called 'location history,' then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off. That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have," he said.
Back in 2020, Arizona AG Mark Brnovich filed a similar suit against Google. Racine clarified that his lawsuit and the three others were distinct from Brnovich's case as the recent ones mention so-called "dark patterns." These dark patterns – design choices for websites to steer users into making a decision – include complicated navigation menus, visual misdirection, confusing wording and repeated nudging.
Racine said the dark patterns Google uses "shows the level of deception and intention that many companies, including Google, engage in to essentially trap the user [and] limit [their] ability to keep certain areas of their life private. They do it all while telling the user, in their policy statements, that the user is in control of how their system operates. That couldn't be farther from the truth."
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Watch the video below of Paul Joseph Watson talking about Google's illegal tracking.
This video is from the InfoWars channel on Brighteon.com.
BigTech.news has more about tech giants like Google tracking users and collecting personal data without their permission.