‘Location Off Should Mean Location Off’: Lawsuit Hits Google’s Alleged ‘Data Collection Schemes’
A man walks past the logo of the US multinational technology company Google during the VivaTech trade fair ( Viva Technology), on May 24, 2018 in Paris.
ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images

In the latest version of a lawsuit against Google from Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the Big Tech giant allegedly tracked user location via third-party apps — including when devices were connected to WiFi, even if the user had switched location services off.

According to a report by the AZ Mirror, employees of Google shared concerns that media outlets, such as The New York Times, would discover the truth.

“So there is no way to give a third party app your location and not Google?” a Google employee is quoted as saying in the complaint in a previously redacted section, as reported by the AZ Mirror. “This doesn’t sound like something we would want on the front page of the NYT.”

As the AZ Mirror explained, the complaint against Google “is part of an ongoing consumer fraud lawsuit Brnovich first filed in May 2020 alleging that Google’s data collection schemes violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act,” adding that “large portions of the lawsuit were redacted by the court at Google’s request.”

A “legal battle” then ensued regarding what information could be released.

Arizona’s Attorney General reportedly started the investigation into Google’s practices following an Associated Press article from 2018 titled, “AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not.”

“Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to,” reported Ryan Nakashima for AP in August 2018. “An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.”

Speaking with Fox Business, Brnovich said that, “The reality is that the stuff we’ve uncovered is shocking.”

“It just confirms that Google is doing everything it can to spy on everyone it can, without providing any sort of notice to anyone,” Brnovich continued, also adding: “We allege when consumers try to opt out of Google collecting location data, the company is continuing to find misleading ways to obtain that information and then use it for their financial advantage.”

According to Fox News, Google spokesperson José Castañeda accused both Arizona’s Attorney General and Google’s competitors of “mischaracterizing” their “services.”

“The Attorney General and our competitors driving this lawsuit have gone out of their way to mischaracterize our services,” Castañeda said. “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 formerly-redacted documents, another Google employee said, “I agree with the article. Location off should mean location off, not except for this case or that case.”

“Real people just think in terms of ‘location is on,’ ‘location is off’ because that is exactly what you have on the front screen of your phone,” another reportedly said.

“What we’ve uncovered so far, I believe, shows that Google themselves understand and appreciate that what they are doing is something that is sneaky and something that would piss off consumers if they knew about it,” Brnovich said. “So the fact they are trying to hide what they are doing, they are being sneaky about it, and using every trick in the arsenal to stop this from seeing the light of day is all consumers need to know about Google’s intentions.”

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