The Washington D.C. Attorney General is suing Google over its supposedly deceptive location permissions policies. The lawsuit, partially instigated by a 2018 Associated Press story, claims that Google is financially motivated to collect location data from Android users to bolster its advertising business and has actively obfuscated ways of hiding your location data through confusing settings and language.
“Since at least 2014, Google has deceived consumers regarding how their location is tracked and used by the Company and consumers’ ability to protect their privacy by stopping this tracking. Google leads consumers to believe that consumers are in control of whether Google collects and retains information about their location and how that information is used. In reality, consumers who use Google products cannot prevent Google from collecting, storing, and profiting from their location,” the lawsuit alleged.
While Google has recently started offering users ways to curtail how much data you upload to their servers and even offers auto-deletion of data if a user selects so, the District says this isn’t enough and is instead optimized to be just confusing enough that it keeps users uploading data in one form or the other.
“The District’s investigation revealed that Google also offers other settings that purport to give consumers control over the location data Google collects and uses. But Google’s misleading, ambiguous, and incomplete descriptions of these settings all but guarantee that consumers will not understand when their location is collected and retained by Google or for what purposes. And, in reality, regardless of the settings they select, consumers who use Google products have no option but to allow the Company to collect, store, and use their location,” the suit alleges.
In a statement shared with The Verge, Google policy spokesperson José Castañeda said, “The attorneys general are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings.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.”