US justice officials accuse Google of tracking and profiting from users’ location data

Jan 24, 2022: According to a report by AFP, Texas and the District of Columbia sued Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday over what they called deceptive location tracking practices that invade United States users’ privacy.

The lawsuit by Washington D.C and Texas alleges Google misled US consumers by continuing to track their locations even when users sought to prevent it.

A group of top US justice officials on Monday accused Google of leaking users’ location data and taking advantage of it, even though users thought they were keeping their privacy from tech giant’s services. Google builds detailed profiles and sells highly targeted ads with data collected from its billions of users – an important part of location information, argued the suits that seek to block alleged practices.

“Google falsely led consumers to believe that changing their account and device settings would allow customers to protect their privacy,” said Karl Racine, the attorney general in the nation’s capital Washington.

These suits are the latest legal threat against Google and other US big-tech companies, which have long faced investigations and lawsuits but lack new national laws that will govern their business. The Attorney General – the state’s top law enforcement and legal adviser – was to sue TechCallus from Indiana, Washington and Texas, making the same allegations. Google said the authorities’ claims were false and based on old claims about its settings.

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

“That is false. Even when Location History is off, Google continues to collect and store users’ locations,” Racine’s office said in a statement.

Officials also allege that Silicon Valley giant used “dark pattern” or design tricks aimed at influencing consumer choices in ways that benefit the company.

However, Racine’s office cited the example of repeatedly asking users to provide location in certain apps, claiming that the product would not work properly without it, when in fact the app did not require a location.

“Even a limited amount of location data, which accumulates over time, can expose a person’s identity and routine,” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement.

Rokita observed that information can be used to infer “sensitive personal details” like political or religious beliefs, income, health or life events like births and divorces.

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