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3 U.S. States, D.C. Sue Google for 'Deceptive' Location Tracking

Per the complaint, Google's alleged deception impacts practically all mobile users of the tech giant's services.

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Texas, Indiana, Washington State and the District of Columbia each filed suit against Google in their respective state courts on Monday, alleging that the company has implemented "dark patterns" and deceptive practices to monitor users' physical locations despite those users' attempts to prevent it.

The attorneys general claim that Google deceptively gathered data to target advertising and build profiles on internet users. The D.C. Attorney General's lawsuit alleges that Google has publicly misled users about its location-tracking options since 2014; although users were told they could limit Google's access to their location data, the technology giant allegedly did not inform users that other settings — individual apps or other aspects of Google's settings panel, for example — had the potential to keep feeding that information to the company. 

Per the complaint, Google utilized "dark patterns," or shrewd design choices, that encouraged users to make decisions favorable to the company, including "repeated nudging, misleading pressure tactics and evasive and deceptive descriptions of location features and settings, to cause users to provide more and more location data (inadvertently or out of frustration)."

Related: Google Now Owns Fitbit | Engadget

“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,” Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement. “The truth is that contrary to Google’s representations, it continues to systematically surveil customers and profit from customer data. Google's bold misrepresentations are a clear violation of consumers’ privacy."

Google spokesperson José Castañeda denied the lawsuits' claims in a statement released on Monday. "We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data," Castañeda said. "We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the record straight."

This isn't the first time Google has been targeted for allegedly deceiving its users. In May 2020, Arizona filed a still pending lawsuit against the company, alleging that third-party apps continued to track users' location even when location services were off.  

Related: What Are 'Google Penalties,' and Why Do You Need to Avoid Them?

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