Google Slapped With Location Tracking Lawsuit

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That didn’t take long. Last week’s revelation that Google tracks users’ location even if tracking is turned off, prompts US lawsuit

Google is facing fresh legal headaches after a lawsuit was filed against it last Friday in a San Francisco federal court.

It comes after an investigation by the Associated Press last week found that a number of Google services running on Android and Apple devices determine the user’s location and store it, even when Google’s “Location History” setting is switched off.

The AP began its investigation after a graduate researcher at UC Berkeley noticed her Android phone prompted her to rate a trip to a particular department store, even though she had turned Location History off.

Location tracking

The AP report said that its its findings had been confirmed by computer science researchers at Princeton University, and it even alleged that Google had gone out of its way to obscure the way its location tracking settings work.

This was bound to trigger legal action in the United States.

And now just days later, Reuters confirmed that a complaint had been filed late Friday, in which it alleges that Google falsely assures people they won’t be tracked if they turn the “Location History” feature on their phones to “off,” and instead violates their privacy by monitoring and storing their movements.

“Google represented that a user ‘can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.’ This simply was not true,” the complaint filed in San Francisco federal court said.

The plaintiff in this case is Napoleon Patacsil of San Diego, and he is reportedly seeking class-action status on behalf of American users of Android phones and Apple iPhones who turned the tracking feature off.

He is also seeking unspecified damages for Google’s alleged intentional violations of California privacy laws, and intrusion into people’s private affairs.

Google did not immediately respond on Monday to requests for comment.

In his complaint, Patacsil claimed that Google illegally tracked him on his Android phone and later on his iPhone, where he had downloaded some Google apps.

He said Google’s “principal goal” was to “surreptitiously monitor” phone users and let third parties do the same.

It should be noted that the help section of Google’s website now says that turning Location History off “does not affect other location services” in phones, and that some location data may be saved through other services, such as Search and Maps.

Ad revenues

Google’s ability to access users’ location data is essential to its strategy of growing targeted mobile advertising, on which US companies are expected to spend up to $20.6 billion (£16.3bn) this year.

Google offers additional location-based ad services as well, including one launched in 2014 that allows advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their ads by tracking footfall data.

Google of course dominates online advertising, and the area makes up nearly all of its revenues.

The search giant and other tech firms have been criticised for making their privacy settings unnecessarily complicated, with the Norwegian Consumer Council in June finding that privacy-friendly options were hidden away or obscured.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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