The state of Arizona’s ongoing consumer fraud lawsuit against Google, first filed in May 2020, just found more ammunition to work with. The lawsuit aims to curb the company’s data collection efforts, which it says violate Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.
According to the lawsuit from Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Google allegedly tracked user location through third-party apps, including when devices are connected to WiFi, even if users disabled the location services function.
The AZ Mirror reported last week that Google employees expressed concerns that media outlets, including the New York Times, would discover what the company was up to.
“So there is no way to give a third party app your location and not Google?” a Google employee is quoted as saying in a previously redacted section of the complaint. “This doesn’t sound like something we would want on the front page of the NYT.”
Another Google employee made a damning admission, stating, “I agree with the article. Location off should mean location off, not except for this case or that case.”
“Real people just think in terms of ‘location is on,’ ‘location is off’ because that is exactly what you have on the front screen of your phone,” another said.
At Google’s request, the court had previously allowed for sections of the complaint to be redacted from public eyes. The AZ Mirror reported that the state conducted a lengthy legal battle to lift the redactions.
The attorney general’s office reportedly began its investigation into Google’s practices in 2018 following the publication of an Associated Press report titled “AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not.”
“Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to,” reported the AP in August 2018. “An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.”
In an interview with Fox Business, Brnovich said that he was shocked by what the state’s investigators found.
“It just confirms that Google is doing everything it can to spy on everyone it can, without providing any sort of notice to anyone,” Brnovich stated, adding: “We allege when consumers try to opt out of Google collecting location data, the company is continuing to find misleading ways to obtain that information and then use it for their financial advantage.”
“What we’ve uncovered so far, I believe, shows that Google themselves understand and appreciate that what they are doing is something that is sneaky and something that would piss off consumers if they knew about it,” Brnovich said. “So the fact they are trying to hide what they are doing, they are being sneaky about it, and using every trick in the arsenal to stop this from seeing the light of day is all consumers need to know about Google’s intentions.”
Google has denied the allegations and described them as a “mischaracterization” of its location services.
“The Attorney General and our competitors driving this lawsuit have gone out of their way to mischaracterize our services,” said Google spokesman Jose Castaneda. “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight.”