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Google Sued For Allegedly Tracking Your Location Data

Google has used and uses deceptive and unfair practices to obtain its user's location data, a new antitrust lawsuit alleges.

Attorney General from Washington D.C. has filed a suit against tech giant Google owned by Alphabet  (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report for allegedly deceiving users and misrepresenting facts about their location settings that enabled the search giant to capture, store and use their location data without knowledge or consent.

“The District files this suit to correct the deceptive and unfair practices that Google has used and uses to obtain consumers’ location data, and to ensure that consumers are able to understand and control the extent to which their location data is accessed, stored, used, and monetized by the Company.”

According to the case filed Monday in the District of Columbia’s Superior Court, Google allegedly manipulates users with its numerous, conflicting settings.

"Google users must navigate numerous, conflicting settings that supposedly control when and how Google collects, stores, and uses their location information," according to the filing.

The Mountain View, Calif., company, still collects and profits from people’s location data despite giving users the option to turn off location tracking since 2014, according to the suit filed by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D).

"Google’s disclosure misleads consumers to believe they can turn off the Google Ad Personalization setting to prevent Google from using location data to show personalized ads," the case alleged.

"But this setting only provides an illusion of control. In reality, Google continues to target ads based on a user’s location—both on and off Google products—even if the user opts out of ads personalization," the filing added.

Similar suits were filed in Texas, Washington and Indiana.

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Google Calls Lawsuit "Inaccurate Claims"

"Google has deceived users by failing to disclose that regardless of whether the user explicitly forbids Google from accessing location via a device, Google derives and stores the user’s location," the suit stated.

"From at least 2014 to at least 2019, Google made misrepresentations regarding how the Location History and Web & App Activity settings used and collected location data. These misrepresentations confused users about which settings implicate location data," the case noted.

Google on its part said the case was "inaccurate" and made "outdated assertions."

"The Attorneys General are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings. 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," Google Spokesperson José Castañeda said in an emailed statement.     

A few weeks ago, it was also reported that Google allegedly misled publishers and advertisers about the pricing and processes of its ad auctions, and created secret programs that deflated sales for some companies while increasing prices for buyers.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, also says that Alphabet and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and Meta Platforms  (FB) - Get Meta Platforms Inc. Class A Report Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg signed off on a 2018 business agreement that allegedly guaranteed Meta subsidiary Facebook would both bid in—and win—a fixed percentage of ad auctions.

On Jan 7., the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Google infringed five patents held by speaker producer Sonos (SONO) - Get Sonos, Inc. Report.

Google has been barred from importing products that violate the intellectual property of Sonos, including some of its Nest audio speakers, part of Google's home-automation systems line.