The state of Texas and the District of Columbia sued Alphabet Inc.’s Google on Monday, Jan. 24, accusing the company of using “constant surveillance” and deploying deceptive methods to gain access to users’ location data.
The lawsuit attaches long-standing information and alleges that since 2014, Google has misled users about the method in which their locations are tracked, in addition to making misleading promises about how privacy is protected through its account services, Reuters reported.
Two other state attorneys general thus filed lawsuits as part of a bipartisan effort to “hold Google accountable for privacy,” Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine’s office said in a statement.
The complaint alleges that consumers are led to believe that changing their account and device settings can prevent Google from accessing location data. However, the company can still access that information from other Google apps, WiFi and Bluetooth scan, or users’ IP addresses.
“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,” Racine said.
The statement goes on to assert that, contrary to Google’s claims, the firm continues to “systematically surveil customers and profit from their data.”
According to the lawsuit, Google allegedly uses so-called “dark patterns” or strategic tricks that can subtly influence a user’s decision to provide more information about their location data.
Google uses “repeated nudges, deceptive pressure tactics, and evasive descriptions of features and settings” to encourage users to activate its location services even when there is no need to use the app.
Overall the lawsuit summarizes that Google engages in various deceptive tactics to encourage users to be more trackable in its apps so that the company can earn higher profits.
Google spokesperson, Jose Castaneda, defended the company saying that “attorneys general are bringing a case based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings.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 addition to the recent allegations, Google has come under fire for violating U.S. antitrust laws, which led during 2020 and 2021 to more than 15 states coming together in a landmark class-action lawsuit.
The original 2020 lawsuit and the 2021 amendment allege multiple violations of federal and state antitrust and consumer protection laws, including anti-competitive conduct, exclusionary practices, and misleading misrepresentation regarding Google’s role in the multi-billion dollar online display advertising industry.
“Google collects thousands of data points about people and uses that information for its own gain while lying to advertisers, publishers, and consumers about their conduct and underlying motives. We will not allow this unprecedented, unlawful conduct to continue. Our coalition looks forward to holding Google accountable for its illegal conduct and reforming Google’s practices in the future. And we are confident Google will be forced to pay for its misconduct through significant financial penalties,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in an official statement.