Google settles a huge lawsuit to track Android users, but will it change its practices?

Google settles a huge lawsuit to track Android users, but will it change its practices?

In 2018, the Associated Press (AP) published an article that drew attention to the fact that Google still collects some user location data even when location history is disabled in Google account settings. Two years later, an Arizona attorney general sued Google for its deceptive location-tracking practices, citing this AP article. Now, another two years later, the two parties have reached a settlement. Google agreed to pay Arizona $85 million to resolve the lawsuit.

The $85 million is a big part of the change, but it won’t be distributed directly to the Arizona residents on whose behalf you filed the lawsuit. Instead, the money will first be split between the state and its legal advisor, with the latter receiving $7.75 million. $5 million of the remaining $77.25 million will go to the attorney general, who will spend it on education and programs aimed at training attorney general staff in consumer protection matters. The rest of the money will be spent on education programs, broadband, and internet privacy with guidance from the state legislature.

Although these funds may help improve Internet privacy and consumer protection issues in Arizona, Google is not obligated by the settlement to make any changes to its data collection practices or policies. Mark Brnovich, the state attorney general for Arizona, said in a statement statement Issued by his office, “I am proud of this historic settlement that proves that no entity, not even big tech companies, is above the law.” However, the settlement expressly states that both parties “agree that nothing in this Agreement constitutes an admission of any breach or an admission of any breaches of law by the respondent.”

Google’s view on the matter, according to company spokesperson José Castañeda, is that the lawsuit is “based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago.” Jose continued, “We offer direct controls and automatic deletion options for location data, and we’re always working to reduce the data we collect. We’re excited to have this issue resolved and will continue to focus our attention on providing useful products to our users.”

Google site log app activity settings web news
Google Location History and Web & App Activity Settings (click to enlarge)

It is not clear exactly what policies are referred to in the spokesperson’s statement. However, the lawsuit highlights a specific section in Google’s support documentation that states, “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History turned off, the places you go will not be stored.” Both the AP article and the lawsuit present this language as misleading, due to the fact that other Google account settings and services enable Google to collect location information even when the location history setting is turned off.

It remains true to this day that pausing your location history does not prevent certain Google apps and services from collecting location data. However, Google has since updated its documentation to explain the limitations of setting up Location History. Now, a dialog appears when users select the option to turn off Location History explaining what Location History does and revealing the fact that Location History is not a public key for all Google Site Collections.

This setting does not affect other location services on your device, such as Google’s location services and Find My Device. Your location may still be saved to your Google Account when you use other Google sites, apps, and services. For example, location data may be saved as part of from Activity on Search and Maps when the Web & App Activity setting is on, and are included in your photos depending on your camera app settings.”

Google has also updated the description of the Web & App Activity setting to inform users that this setting, when enabled, allows Google apps and websites to collect user location information. The description for the setting now reads: “Saves your activity on Google sites and apps, including associated information like location, to give you faster searches, better recommendations, and more personalized experiences in Maps, search, and other Google services.”

Additional google android site settings news
Additional Google Site Settings on Android (click to enlarge)

Based on these descriptions, users looking to disable Google location tracking as much as possible should turn off not only Location History but also Web and App Activity. There are also a number of additional location settings within the Android and Google apps that users can disable. The Android Location Services Settings page lists several location services that each have an on/off switch.

The Google Camera app also has a save location toggle, but users will have to go to the Google Photos app to disable location info for photos completely. The Missing Location Estimation feature can use landmarks and other information to assign location information to photos, even when the location saving feature is disabled in the Google Camera app. Unfortunately, many users wishing to disable Google location tracking may not be aware of these additional settings, and instead think that the Location History setting is a general toggle for the Google Site Collection.

#Google #settles #huge #lawsuit #track #Android #users #change #practices

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *