Building on a suit brought by the Arizona Attorney General in 2020 that claims Google engaged in deceptive collection of user location data on its Android platform, the attorneys general for the District of Columbia and three states– Texas, Indiana, and Washington– today announced separate lawsuits against the company. The Arizona lawsuit followed a report by the Associated Press in 2018 that “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.”
“Google falsely led consumers to believe that changing their account and device settings would allow customers to protect their privacy and control what personal data the company could access,” said District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine. “The truth is that contrary to Google’s representations it continues to systematically surveil customers and profit from customer data. Googles bold misrepresentations are a clear violation of consumers’ privacy. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan group of attorneys general that will hold Google accountable for its deception. Through this lawsuit, we will hold Google accountable, and in the process, educate consumers on how their personal data—particularly sensitive data about their physical location—is collected, stored, and monetized. This result of our collective action is that consumers, not Google, will determine how their data is or is not used.”DCv.Google1-24-22
“Google’s founding motto is ‘Don’t Be Evil.’ And yet it systematically lies to millions of consumers in order to stack billions of dollars into its coffers,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “Big Tech companies like Google continue to erode the American way of life and often break the law to maintain their overwhelming dominant market position. This lawsuit is just another part of my fight against Big Tech. I’ll hold Google accountable for misleading and deceiving Texans. This is not only an unethical invasion of privacy—it’s against the law.”DRAFT-Texas-Geolocation-Petition-1.23-Final-Redacted
“Location data is deeply personal for consumers,” Washington Attorney General Bog Ferguson said. “This information reveals the most significant details of our lives. Google denied consumers the ability to choose whether Google could track their sensitive location data to make a profit. Google kept tracking individuals’ location data even after consumers told the corporation to stop. This is not only dishonest — it’s unlawful.”2022_01_24FinalRedactedComplaint
“Depending on a consumer’s other settings, Google collected and stored a consumer’s location data through Web & App Activity, Google apps on the consumer’s device, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scans from the consumer’s device, Google’s Location Services feature, (and) the consumer’s IP address,” reads the Indiana complaint.Google-Complaint-PUBLIC-Redacted
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.