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Google Faces Arizona Lawsuit Over Alleged Location Tracking

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Google is now facing down a new lawsuit brought by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich over location data tracking. The suit, reported by the Washington Post, claims that Google illegally tracked Android users’ location and that it did so without consent. Perhaps more pertinently, the claim is that the tracking continued even after users manually disabled location data on their device.

Now, the court filings have been heavily redacted — leaving many details in the dark. But the state claims that Google continued recording location data using mapping and weather services. The filing also implies that Google makes the appropriate setting to stop tracking difficult to find. And that the company went further to change tracking defaults “without informing the user.

The location data tracked, the claim states, was used to serve up ads — ultimately bolstering Google’s bottom line.

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Mr. Brnovich has asked the courts to require that Google pays back all of its gains. That’s if the company is found to be in violation of state privacy and anti-fraud laws. The amount would, the attorney general claims, equate to hundreds of millions of dollars. If Mr. Brnovich can adequately prove that Google has violated anti-fraud laws, Arizona courts could further collect as much as $10,000 per violation.

Google maintains its innocence with regard to this Arizona Lawsuit

Google has faced down a wealth of lawsuits over the past couple of years and this latest case follows on an investigation that took place way back in 2018. But the company isn’t in the clear just yet — in this case or in others.

The search giant has also already responded publicly to the allegations listed here via a statement. According to a Google spokesperson, “the Attorney General and the contingency fee lawyers filing this lawsuit appear to have mischaracterized” Google services. The company goes further to explain that it has always built privacy features into its products. And it’s always provided “robust controls” for location data.

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The company says it looks forward to “setting the record straight.”

How is Google protecting privacy?

Now, the company has made a wide battery of changes over the last couple of years.

Among those changes that are most important to this case, it has made location data tracking easier to find and interact with. That includes the ability to outright delete the data. In fact, those are changes it has applied across all of its data storage menus. The changes, summarily, make stopping tracking a much more intuitive process. But it remains to be seen if that can sway the court. They also make it possible, in most cases, to delete the data entirely.

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However, Google began pushing each of the changes in response to the above-mentioned widespread allegations. Namely, allegations that Google’s settings were too obscure and misleading — perhaps deliberately. Given the timeframe of the allegations and any new information or evidence provided by Mr. Brnovich, there may still be a solid case here — in spite of Google’s changes.

In either case, whether Google is in violation of any laws and owes restitution remains to be determined by the courts. And this case will likely drag out for some time going forward.