Google Loses Bid Against Arizona State Lawsuit Over Location Tracking

By Bryan Jung
Bryan Jung
Bryan Jung
Bryan S. Jung is a native and resident of New York City with a background in politics and the legal industry. He graduated from Binghamton University.
January 25, 2022Updated: January 26, 2022

Alphabet Inc.’s Google lost its bid to end a lawsuit by the State of Arizona on Jan. 25 that alleged it deceived users in order to access their location data.

The state’s lawsuit, filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, alleged that Google had used unfair and deceptive practices to obtain users’ location data, which it secretly exploited for targeted advertising.

Judge Timothy Thomason of Arizona, said that the allegations that the tech giant deceived users with unclear smartphone location tracking settings should be weighed by a jury.

The decision came a day after the state attorneys general of Washington, Indiana, Texas, and Washington D.C. sued Google on similar grounds that the company engaged in duplicitous tactics to access user data.

The Arizona complaint points to the fact that users of Google’s Android smartphones who disabled the location history features in their settings still had their location tracking saved to their Google account through their web app and activity settings.

Google has been accused of deliberately deceiving users into believing they had opted out of location tracking while their devices were still collecting data on them with misleading design features and weak privacy notices.

State law enforcement and Google have been sparring over whether users were aware that they needed to disable both settings to keep Google from tracking their movements.

The tech company had sought an early summary judgment to get the case thrown out, arguing that its behavior did not violate Arizona consumer fraud laws.

Google claimed that the allegations were “based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions.”

It had argued that its company disclosures about privacy settings had been clarified since the case was brought forward nearly two years ago, but the plea was denied and the tech giant will have to face trial, according Judge Thomason.

“We won a major victory against Google,” said AG Brnovich on Twitter.

“We appreciate the judge’s ruling, allowing our lawsuit against Google to move forward to trial. For too long the company has used deceptive practices to obtain users’ location data to help fund its lucrative advertising business.”

Arizona can now proceed with claims that Google may have engaged in alleged deceptive practices toward its phone customers and app users.

However, the judge rejected a third accusation that Google deceived users by keeping location data to help sell ads.

The Federal Court in Australia last April ruled in favor of the prosecution’s case that Google had similarly misled consumers, for which the penalties are yet to be determined.

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