Arizona Files Lawsuit Against Google Over ‘Deceptive’ Location Tracking

Arizona Files Lawsuit Against Google Over ‘Deceptive’ Location Tracking
Google's logo on a phone in a photo illustration on July 10, 2019. (Alastaire Pike/AFP via Getty Images)
Bowen Xiao

The state of Arizona has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Google, alleging that the company used “unfair” practices to track the location data of its users even after they had turned off the tracking function.

The lawsuit, filed on May 27 by Attorney General Mark Brnovich, alleges that the technology company violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. It requires Google to “disgorge gross receipts arising from its Arizona activities.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and argues that the maker of the Android smartphone operating system had set its mobile software to deceive device owners about protections afforded to them regarding their personal data.

“We filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Google for deceptive and unfair practices used to obtain users’ location data, which Google then exploits for its lucrative advertising business,” Brnovich said in a statement on Twitter.

Brnovich pointed out that last year, over 80 percent of Google’s revenue—$135 billion out of $161 billion—came through advertising. He said in a Twitter thread that they brought forward the suit to put an end to Google’s “deceptive collection of user data” and to also “obtain monetary relief.”

“Google collects detailed information about its users, including their physical locations, to target users for advertising,” he said. “Often, this is done without the users’ consent or knowledge.”

A Google spokesperson told The Epoch Times in a May 28 email that Arizona’s attorney general and his lawyers “appear to have mischaracterized our services.”

“We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to setting the record straight.”

Arizona began its investigation into Google’s practices following a 2018 article by The Associated Press “that detailed how users are lulled into a false sense of security, believing Google provides users the ability to actually disable their Location History,” according to Brnovich.

AP reported two years ago that users could pause a setting called “Location History,” and Google’s support page said: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

But even with the function paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data.

Last year, 50 U.S. states and territories, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, launched an anti-trust probe into Google and the company’s “potential monopolistic behavior.” The investigation is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who formally made the announcement on Sept. 9.

The bipartisan probe by attorneys general included every state in the nation except California and Alabama. Alphabet, which owns Google, said on Sept. 6 last year that the Justice Department had also requested information and documents related to prior antitrust probes of the company.

Meanwhile, Google, which owns YouTube, recently acknowledged to The Epoch Times that the video platform had been deleting from its comment section some Chinese phrases critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

One apparently banned phrase was “gongfei” (共匪), which can be translated as “communist bandit” and appears to date back to the Chinese civil war era.

Another phrase that was deleted was “wumao” (五毛), which literally means “fifty cents,” and is commonly used to describe the army of internet trolls the CCP uses to spread its propaganda online. It’s long been rumored that they were once paid 50 cents per post.

Epoch Times reporter Petr Svab, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
Bowen Xiao was a New York-based reporter at The Epoch Times. He covers national security, human trafficking and U.S. politics.
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