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Lawsuit accuses Google of tracking user activity in apps even after they opt out

Published Jul 16th, 2020 7:31AM EDT
Google Tracking Users

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  • Google is tracking users even if they’ve opted out, claim a new lawsuit against the company that’s currently seeking class-action status.
  • The same law firm that accused Google that it’s tracking Chrome users who surf the web in Incognito mode now says Google is tracking user activity over hundreds of thousands of apps.
  • Google, in recent years, has vowed to increase the privacy protections built into its services, following several privacy missteps over the years. The company still collects plenty of user data to sell better ads online.

As hard as it might try to convince its customers that its products offer better security and privacy protections than ever before, Google still collects user data so it can sell more expensive ads online. Your data might be anonymized, and Google isn’t actually sharing any personal information with third parties, but Google still harnesses all that information to make money. It’s how you pay for all the great Google apps available on desktop and mobile, some of which being leading players in their class.

A new lawsuit now alleges that Google is tracking user activity across apps even after they opt out of tracking. This is hardly the first time Google had to deal with privacy-infringing issues. Only a few weeks ago, a different suit alleged that Incognito Chrome browsing is also being tracked. An even bigger user tracking scandal came to light a few years ago when the world learned that Google is tracking user location even if they think they’ve opted out of being tracked.

Law firm Boies Schiller Flexner filed the lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of a few individuals, and it’s seeking class-action status, according to Reuters. This the firm’s second lawsuit against Google in a matter of weeks. The same Boies Schiller Flexner is behind the lawsuit that alleges Google is recording Chrome browser activity even when Incognito mode is active.

The suit says Google records what people are doing on hundreds of thousands of mobile apps even after they turn off “Web & App Activity” in their Google accounts. Google competitors Facebook and Oracle are also included in the suite.

“Even when consumers follow Google’s own instructions and turn off ‘Web & App Activity’ tracking on their ‘Privacy Controls,’ Google nevertheless continues to intercept consumers’ app usage and app browsing communications and personal information,” the lawsuit says.

The data collection supposedly happens via Google’s Firebase. That’s a software solution that allows app developers to store data, deliver notifications and ads, and track clicks and glitches. The app runs in the background, unknown to consumers.

Reuters explains that Google uses some Firebase data to improve its product and personalize ads. A separate investigation from US antitrust regulators is looking at whether Google made Firebase unavoidable to app makers, and thus stifled competition in advertising and other businesses.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.