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Lawsuits & Litigation

Google Hit with Lawsuit for Illegally Tracking Android User’s Locations

— May 28, 2020

Arizona recently decided to sue Google over complaints that it illegally tracked the locations of Android phone users.

Google is in the hot seat over a lawsuit alleging it violated the privacy rights of Android phone users “by collecting information about their whereabouts even if they had turned off such digital tracking.” The lawsuit was filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and seeks unspecified damages. According to the lawsuit, Google, the company behind the Android smartphone operating system, “set up its mobile software in a way that enriched its advertising empire and deceived device owners about the protections actually afforded to their personal data, running afoul of Arizona consumer-protection laws that prohibit companies from misrepresenting their business practices.”

Privacy sign
Privacy sign; image courtesy of notnixon via Pixabay,

When discussing the case in a recent interview, Brnovich said, “When consumers try to opt-out of Google’s collection of location data, the company is continuing to find misleading ways to obtain information and use it for profit.”

Google, however, pushed back against the allegations. A spokesman for the tech giant, Jose Castaneda, recently released a statement and stressed “the state and its contingency fee lawyers filing this lawsuit appear to have mischaracterized our services.” He added, “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight.”

Brnovich’s case is the latest complaint filed against Google over its “approach to privacy, a decade of allegations that the tech behemoth wrongly tracked users’ web browsing behavior, improperly siphoned students’ data and illegally collected details about children who were viewing cartoons on YouTube.” In total, the company has forked over millions of dollars in fines in the U.S. alone. However, those fines are nowhere near the annual revenue the company rakes in each year.

When asked why he decided to file the lawsuit, Brnovich said:

“At some point, people or companies that have a lot of money think they can do whatever the hell they want to do, and feel like they are above the law…I wanted Google to get the message that Arizona has a state consumer fraud act. They may be the most innovative company in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re above the law.”

For those unfamiliar with Android phones, users are typically allowed to “turn off a feature that tracks their movements.” However, Arizona alleged “in its complaint Wednesday that these devices still recorded and kept location records for certain apps — including mapping and weather — as well as searches, even for users who disabled location tracking.” The complaint added:

“Users, including in Arizona, have come to rely on Google’s products and services on a daily basis…At the same time, through these deceptive and unfair acts and practices, Google makes it impractical if not impossible for users to meaningfully opt-out of Google’s collection of location information, should the users seek to do so.”


Arizona sues Google over allegations it illegally tracked Android smartphone users’ locations


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