Google Faces Lawsuit, Accused Of Tracking Locations

Google Faces Lawsuit, Accused of Tracking Locations Even When 'Location History' is Off

A lawsuit has been filed against tech giant Google, accusing Google of tracking locations even when the “Location History” setting is turned off.

It was just ten days ago that AP News revealed, following an investigation that it had done, that Google was tracking iPhone and Android device users even when they turned the related settings off.

An AP News report dated August 13, 2018, says- “Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to…An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.”

The findings were confirmed, at the AP’s request, by computer-science researchers at Princeton.

The AP News report explains it in detail- “For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a “timeline” that maps out your daily movements.”

It further says- “Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company lets you “pause” a setting called Location History…Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”…That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. (It’s possible, although laborious, to delete it.)”

The issue reportedly affects almost 2 billion users of Android devices and hundreds of iPhone users worldwide.

Now, ten days after the report by AP News, the first lawsuit has been filed against Google over the issue. Ars Technica has reported that a man in San Diego has now sued Google while at the same time Washington DC-based activists are demanding an inquiry, by the Federal Trade Commission, to examine if Google is in breach of its 2011 consent decree with the agency.

Ars Technica reports- “In the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court last Friday in San Francisco, attorneys representing a man named Napoleon Patacsil argued that Google is violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the state’s constitutional right to privacy…The lawsuit seeks class-action status, and it would include both an “Android Class” and “iPhone Class” for the potential millions of people in the United States with such phones who turned off their Location History and nonetheless had it recorded by Google. ”

The lawsuit filed against Google states- “Google expressly represented to users of its operating system and apps that the activation of certain settings will prevent the tracking of users’ geolocations. This representation was false. Despite users’ attempts to protect their location privacy, Google collects and stores users’ location data, thereby invading users’ reasonable expectations of privacy, counter to Google’s own representations about how users can configure Google’s products to prevent such egregious privacy violations.”

The lawsuit argues that what Google has done is a violation of Section 5 of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) act, and also a violation of the California Invasion of Privacy Act and California’s Constitutional Right to Privacy.

The plaintiff in the case has clarified that Google had, between 2016 and the present, continued tracking his location information on the Apple iPhone that he was using and which had various Google apps and functionalities downloaded into it. The plaintiff had managed his Location History settings to limit Google’s tracking of his location. Before 2016, he had owned an Android mobile phone and Google had been tracking his location information despite his turning the Location History setting to “off” on the device. He now seeks damages and also seeks a court order “…enjoining Google from continuing its practice of recording and using Plaintiff’s and Class members’ location information against their wishes”. He also seeks “…an order requiring Google to destroy all data acquired, created, or otherwise obtained from the unlawful recording and use of the location information of Plaintiff and Class members”

Mashable reports- “Days after the AP published its Location History investigation, and on the same day this lawsuit was filed, Google updated the Location History support page on its website. The support page that is live now reads “This setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device. Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”…Before the current edit to the page, Google’s Location History support claimed that “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.””

Julia Sowells924 Posts

Julia Sowells has been a technology and security professional. For a decade of experience in technology, she has worked on dozens of large-scale enterprise security projects, and even writing technical articles and has worked as a technical editor for Rural Press Magazine. She now lives and works in New York, where she maintains her own consulting firm with her role as security consultant while continuing to write for Hacker Combat in her limited spare time.

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