Google sued by 4 attorneys general over location tracking

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 22, 2020. FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images Four attorneys general are suing Google for allegedly misleading users about when the company was able to track their location. The bipartisan group of attorneys general


Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 22, 2020.

FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images

Four attorneys general are suing Google for allegedly misleading users about when the company was able to track their location.

The bipartisan group of attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Indiana, Texas and Washington allege in separate lawsuits filed Monday that Google deceived users from at least 2014 to 2019 by leading them to believe that turning off Location History settings would make the service stop tracking their locations. But, the AGs allege, a user’s location could still be tracked by Google unless they also turned off settings in the Web & App Activity section.

Google describes Web & App Activity as a way to personalize experiences for users by saving searches and activity in a user’s account.

The AGs allege that Google misled users to believe that once they turned their Location History off, their location would not longer be tracked.

“Yet, even when consumers explicitly opted out of location tracking by turning Location History off, Google nevertheless recorded consumers’ locations via other means,” the Washington lawsuit alleges. “Although Web & App Activity setting is automatically enabled for all Google Accounts, the Company’s disclosures during Google Account creation did not mention or draw consumers’ attention to the setting until 2018.”

A 2018 report from the Associated Press revealed the basis of the allegations in the lawsuits.

The AGs allege that Google profited from the deception by fueling its advertising business with such data. The lawsuits specifically request the court to require Google to offload any algorithms created with the allegedly ill-gotten gains, alongside monetary profits.

Google didn’t immediately provide a statement but pointed to comments a judge in a similar case brought by Arizona’s attorney general made.

“A reasonable fact finder could find that a reasonable, or even an unsophisticated, consumer, would understand that at least some location information is collected through means other than LH,” the judge wrote in a recent filing, referring to Location History.

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