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Google’s creepy location-tracking policy just landed the company a brand-new lawsuit

Published Aug 20th, 2018 5:06PM EDT
lawsuit google violates privacy
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Right on the heels of an Associated Press investigation confirming that Google creepily tracks user movements and locations even after they’ve tried to forbid that tracking, a San Diego man is now telling the tech giant “I’ll see you in court.”

Napoleon Patacsil has filed a complaint in federal court in San Francisco that seeks class action status on behalf of Android and iPhone users who turned off the “Location History” feature on their phones, which the complaint says Google ignored by then spying on their movements anyway.

“Google represented that a user ‘can turn off Location History at any time,” the complaint, which was filed on Friday, reads. “‘With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.’ This simply was not true.”

The crux of the suit is that Google is in violation of California’s Invasion of Privacy Act. A judge will presumably now set about the task of determining whether a class exists for the case and how to identify its members, which could include millions of Android and iPhone users in the U.S.

This comes on the heels of attorneys from the Electronic Privacy Information Center writing an angry letter to the Federal Trade Commission late last week, which you can read here. It blasts Google’s practices as being in violation of a 2011 settlement with the agency. “Google is not permitted to track users after they have made clear in their privacy settings that they do not want to be tracked,” the letter reads, before concluding “The FTC’s failure to enforce its Consent Orders places American consumers at risk. The Commission’s inactions have made the Internet less safe and less secure for users and consumers.”

The thing that set all this in motion is the AP investigation, which apparently forced Google to tweak the language on the help page explaining how its “Location History” setting works. Per the AP, “its help page now states: ‘This setting does not affect other location services on your device.’ It also acknowledges that ‘some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.’

Previously, the page stated: ‘with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.’

Bringing up the 2011 settlement with the FTC is relevant here, because Google had previously agreed it wouldn’t misrepresent anything related to “(1) the purposes for which it collects and uses covered information, and (2) the extent to which consumers may exercise control over the collection, use, or disclosure of covered information.”

Google provided a short statement in response to the AP reporting last week: “We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers.” The company hasn’t, however, responded yet about the filing of the lawsuit.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.