Arizona Attorney General(AG) Mark Brnovich is suing Google according to The Washington Post. On Wednesday May 27, 2020 the Arizona AG filed a lawsuit against Google for consistent violations of all android users’ privacy arguing Google was collecting geolocational data of users who had turned off their digital tracking settings and more. The lawsuit goes on to say that Google purposely set up their mobile software to deceive users into thinking their data was protected and private when in actuality Google were siphoning it through different apps and profiting off of their data being sold for targeted advertising purposes. The lawsuit alleges Google has violated Arizona consumer-protection laws that prohibit companies from misrepresenting their business practices.
Arizona began investigating Google’s shady data collecting in 2018 according to The Washington Post, after the Associated Press (AP) launched their own investigation in Google’s data tracking methods. Almost all smartphones that run iOS or Android come with a feature that allows the user to turn off location tracking. According to Arizona’s complaint, smartphones running Android regardless of if they had turned off this location tracking function were still sending locational data to Google through apps like weather and maps. If users truly wanted none of their locational data recorded, they had to go through a “maze of menus” to find a second setting to turn off according to the state.
Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesperson issued a response saying, “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight.” Setting the record straight? Google has numerous privacy and data collecting conflicts with watchdogs and regulating agencies all over the world.
This past February, Arizona’s neighbor state New Mexico filed a lawsuit against Google and their educational services for violating The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) because they were recording and selling student data without consent. Once again Castaneda was responsible for Google’s response stating their facts are wrong and they would never use such data for targeted advertising.
Except Google has already broken COPPA regulations before in 2019, when Google and Youtube had to pay the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) $170 million for collecting children’s data without guardian consent. $170 million sure seems like a lot of money at first, but in comparison to Google’s annual revenue, it is scarily insignificant. Privacy regulators and watchdogs fear that Google has become too big to properly regulate.
According to Arizona, Google’s secretive location recording and data tracking was used to help the tech giants expand and deliver targeted ads at an exponential rate to citizens who did not consent in the first place. Arizona AG Brnovich is asking for Google to payback all of the profits they made off of Arizona residents and state anti-fraud laws allow Arizona to collect up to $10,000 for every violation.
“At some point, people or companies that have a lot of money think they can do whatever the hell they want to do, and feel like they are above the law,” Brnovich eloquently put it. “I wanted Google to get the message that Arizona has a state consumer fraud act. They may be the most innovative company in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re above the law.” Other states and officials are also likely to file antitrust lawsuits in the coming months, so optimistically this summer can make a big impact on how Google and other tech giants handle privacy and compliance.