The US state of Arizona sued Google on Wednesday for allegedly collecting location information from Android users even if they had turned off location tracking. According to Arizona Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, the company mislead users into believing that turning off location tracking was enough to protect themselves from being tracked, while in reality, it “(continued) to find misleading ways to obtain information and use it for profit”. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Arizona residents, but according to the AG, the company may be fined up to $10,000 per violation in accordance with Arizona anti-fraud laws.
While Brnovich argues that Google’s deceptive practices violates Arizona’s consumer-protection laws, the company itself defended its actions. Jose Castaneda, a spokesman for Google, released a statement, claiming that the state and its lawyers “appear to have mischaracterized our services”. According to him: “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight”.
According to The Washington Post, the probe dates back to 2018, when an investigation by the Associated Press into the location tracking functionality on Android supposedly revealed that Android devices recorded and kept location records for certain apps, including mapping and weather, even when tracking was explicitly turned off. The lawsuit further alleges that the persistent location tracking was also evident in searches, even for users who disabled the function. Brnovich also claims that Android devices sometimes automatically changed the default tracking settings without seeking user consent or even informing them.
The report about Arizona’s investigation into Google’s allegedly sneaky location-tracking behavior comes just a day after the reports suggested that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has launched an investigation into whether the company is abusing Android’s dominant market position in the country to stifle competition and unfairly promote its UPI payments app, Google Pay.