Google is in trouble over location tracking.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the state of Arizona sued Google on Wednesday for allegedly collecting data about users’ whereabouts even if they had turned off location tracking.
Google’s Android allows users to turn off location tracking in its settings. But according to the lawsuit, filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Android devices continued to record and keep location records in some apps, such as mapping, weather, and search apps, even if location tracking was disabled. To fully prevent their devices from collecting location data, Android users had to turn off a second setting which was hard to find.
The lawsuit also alleges that Google’s Android sometimes changed the default tracking settings without seeking user consent or even informing them.
“Users, including in Arizona, have come to rely on Google’s products and services on a daily basis. At the same time, through these deceptive and unfair acts and practices, Google makes it impractical if not impossible for users to meaningfully opt-out of Google’s collection of location information, should the users seek to do so,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Arizona residents, but the final tally might go up to hundreds of millions of dollars, Brnovich said. Per Arizona laws, Google could also be fined up to $10,000 for each violation.
“The Attorney General and the contingency fee lawyers filing this lawsuit appear to have mischaracterized our services. We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight,” Google Spokesperson Jose Castaneda told Mashable.
The lawsuit stems from a 2018 Arizona probe into Google’s location tracking practices. It’s definitely not the first of its kind: In July 2018, Google was fined $5 billion for Android antitrust breach, and in March 2019, Google was fined $1.7 billion for anticompetitive ad practices. In Sept. 2019, the FTC fined Google’s YouTube $170 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and in Dec. 2019, France fined Google $166 million for anti-competitive behavior.