By Jon Swartz
Attorneys general from the District of Columbia and three states sued Google on Monday, claiming the search giant misled consumers to gain access to their location data.
The lawsuits from D.C., Indiana, Texas and Washington allege Alphabet Inc.’s Google /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -0.73% /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG -0.66% deceived users from at least 2014 to 2019 by leading them to believe that turning off “location history” settings would stop tracking their whereabouts. The suits seek to stop Google from engaging in these practices and to fine the company.
“Yet, even when consumers explicitly opted out of location tracking by turning location history off, Google nevertheless recorded consumers’ locations via other means,” the Washington lawsuit argues. “Although Web & App Activity setting is automatically enabled for all Google accounts, the company’s disclosures during Google account creation did not mention or draw consumers’ attention to the setting until 2018.”
A Google spokesman quickly dismissed the lawsuit as a case “based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings.”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,” Google’s Jose Castaneda told MarketWatch in a statement. “We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the record straight.”
Google said it has made several improvements over the past few years to make location data easier to manage and understand through simplified settings, improved default and increased transparency.
Monday’s lawsuit is the latest from attorneys general and the federal government to blunt the growing influence of the search giant. Google has adamantly maintained that each is predicated on inaccurate claims.
Google shares closed flat in trading Monday.
“The stunning allegations in this bipartisan suit by four attorneys general show, yet again, that tech companies continue to mislead, deceive, and prioritize profits over protecting user privacy,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a statement. “I’ve long raised alarm over Google’s location data deceptions and Big Tech’s lies must stop. Congress must urgently meet this moment in the privacy crisis by passing a comprehensive law that provides the privacy protections that Americans need and deserve.”