State AGs Sue Google, Say Company Lied To Customers To Harvest Their Data

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Ailan Evans Deputy Editor
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A group of state attorneys general filed lawsuits against Google on Monday, alleging that the company deceived its customers about its privacy settings in order to access their location data.

The complaints, led by Democratic Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine, in addition to attorneys general from Texas, Washington and Indiana, alleging that the company uses deceptive business practices to convince consumers that their location data is protected. (RELATED: Hundreds Of Local Papers Are Suing Facebook And Google For Alleged Ad Monopolies)

The attorneys general allege that Google falsely claims consumers can safeguard their privacy by adjusting certain account settings, such as by telling customers they “’can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.’” The attorneys general allege that this claim is deceptive, as Google still collects and stores location data with “Location History” turned off.

“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,” Racine’s complaint reads. “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 complaint also alleges that Google employs design “dark patterns,” or deceptive design features, to coerce or influence users into sharing more data with the company.

“For example, Google’s decision to enable the privacy-intrusive Web & App Activity feature by default, while failing to disclose this setting, was a deceptive use of design,” Racine’s complaint reads. “Through this dark pattern, Google not only misled users about the extent of its location tracking, but also made it difficult for users to opt out of this tracking.”

The attorneys general allege that these deceptive business practices violate consumer protection laws.

Racine’s complaint follows an effort by state attorneys general to target Google for alleged anti-competitive behavior, with a complaint filed in December 2020 alleging that the company violated federal antitrust laws.

When reached for comment, Google spokesperson José Castañeda told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the company has made a number of recent changes to its privacy features, and that the lawsuit was “based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions.”

“We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the record straight,” Castañeda said.

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