Arizona sues Google, alleging illegal location-tracking of Android users

“I wanted Google to get the message that Arizona has a state consumer fraud act. They may be the most innovative company in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re above the law.”

Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General

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The state of Arizona is suing Google, claiming the company continued to track Android users’ locations even if tracking options had been turned off, The Washington Post reports. The lawsuit was filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Wednesday.

“When consumers try to opt out of Google’s collection of location data, the company is continuing to find misleading ways to obtain information and use it for profit,” ” Brnovich says.

With the lawsuit, Brnovich is seeking an unspecified amount in damages from Google; he’s asking for the company to be forced to pay back any profits it would have earned by selling consumer data to third-party advertisers. Google could also be charged up to $10,000 per violation based on Arizona’s anti-fraud laws.

Google has been accused of similar secretive user-tracking methods in the past — and the company has supposedly taken measures to prevent those missteps from being repeated in the future. Now the company is being accused of doubling up on the same sly tactics to make a quick profit.

Google’s response — Unsurprisingly, Google is not ready to admit any wrongdoing.

“We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data,” a spokesperson for Google says. “We look forward to setting the record straight."

Privacy is a strong word — Google has been hit with similar lawsuits in the past because it continually skirts around the supposed “robust controls” for privacy it claims it provides to its users.

In 2017, for example, Google admitted to similar location-tracking efforts that could work even when users had turned off location services and removed their SIM cards. Then, again, in 2018 it was revealed that Google could track users’ locations through various apps even when the Location History option had been turned off.

Just the beginning — Though this particular lawsuit only covers residents in the state of Arizona, others are expected to be filed in high-ranking courts in the near future, according to The Washington Post. Especially if the Arizonan effort is successful.

There’s a particularly large antitrust lawsuit brewing in the federal Justice Department, aiming to take aggressive action against the tech giant's empire. That suit, along with another signed by nearly every state attorney general in the United States, could break as soon as this summer, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Google says it’s continued to work with antitrust investigators every step of the way, though some reports say the company continues to withhold important information.

The lawsuits against Google are piling up. The company is often seen as a benevolent force, at least in comparison to the constant scandals that plague its fellow tech giants. But past legal action has obviously not been enough to keep the company from repeating its dubious data practices. It’s time for Google to be held accountable — and not just in passing — for the continued violation of its users’ privacy, and their trust.