Google has been sued by Arizona attorney-general Mark Brnovich on allegations that the tech giant violated users' privacy by collecting their information even if they had turned off their location settings.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, alleges that Google designed its Android operating system in a way that even when consumers turned off their location services, they still needed to take other steps to stop such tracking.
According to the complaint, Android's menus were deceptive as users needed to turn off a second, hard to find, setting to prevent their information from being collected. If this setting was not turned off, devices still recorded and kept location records, such as map, weather, and search data, the complaint said.
"Through these deceptive and unfair acts and practices, Google makes it impractical if not impossible for users to meaningfully opt-out of Google's collection of location information, should the users seek to do so," the complaint said.
The complaint also accuses Google of designing its Android operating system in this manner as part of efforts to enrich its advertising empire via collecting user data.
"Individual users of Google products and services are the targets of a sweeping surveillance apparatus designed to collect their behavioural data en masse, including data pertaining to user location," the complaint added.
In a series of tweets, Brnovich criticised Google's advertising practices in light of the lawsuit.
"In 2019 over 80% of Google's revenues -- $135B out of $161B -- were generated through advertising. Google collects detailed information about its users, including their physical locations, to target users for advertising. Often, this is done without the users' consent or knowledge," Brnovich said.
"We brought forward this action to put a stop to Google's deceptive collection of user data, obtain monetary relief, and require Google to disgorge gross receipts arising from its Arizona activities."
The consumer lawsuit is the culmination of an Arizona investigation into Google's practices that commenced in late 2018, following an Associated Press investigation into the company's tracking behaviour.
Arizona's investigation [PDF] looked into how Google handled storing consumer location data, tracked consumer location, as well as other types of consumer tracking.
This lawsuit is not the only one faced by Google for its tracking practices, with the company also facing litigation in Australia for allegedly not informing users that they needed to have both their Location History and Web & App Activity settings disabled to prevent Google from storing location data.
A court in the United Kingdom also ruled late last year that a lawsuit alleging Google tracked and harvested information belonging to iPhone users without consent could go ahead.
Separately, Google is reportedly being investigated by India's antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), for allegedly abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app in the country.
According to Reuters, the complaint to the CCI alleges that Google prioritised showcasing its GooglePay app inside its Android app store over other competitors in India, giving it an unfair advantage and stifling consumer choice.
The allegation is currently being reviewed by senior CCI members, the report said, to determine if a wider probe will be conducted.
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