Texas, Indiana and the District of Columbia sued Alphabet’s Google on Monday over what they called deceptive location tracking practices that invade users’ privacy.
“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,” the office of the Washington DC 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,” the statement said.
The Washington state attorney general, Bob Ferguson, said his office was filing a lawsuit against Google as well. “Location data is key to Google’s advertising business. Consequently, it has a financial incentive to dissuade users from withholding access to that data,” Ferguson’s office said in a statement on Monday.
The lawsuit cites a 2018 article by the Associated Press that revealed Google was continuing to track users’ locations even when users turned off the “location history” setting. The company claimed that turning that setting off would stop any location tracking when in reality there was a separate setting, called “Web & App Activity”, that continued to log location and other personal data.
A spokesperson for Google, Jose Castaneda, said the “attorneys general are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings.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. We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the record straight.”
In May 2020, the state of Arizona filed a similar lawsuit against Google over its collection of location data of users. That suit is pending.
Google is facing several lawsuits and investigations. In December 2020, the attorneys general of multiple US states sued Google, alleging the company misled publishers and advertisers about the price and process of advertising auctions. The lawsuit alleges that Google maintained control over the advertising sales market – a market that it dominates – by inflating the price of advertisements for brands and suppressing competition from other advertising exchanges.
In a separate lawsuit, the US justice department in October 2020 alleged the tech company abused its position to maintain an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising. “Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy startup with an innovative way to search the emerging internet. That Google is long gone,” that suit alleged.