US State Arizona sues Google in a consumer fraud lawsuit

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on May 29, 2020

The state of Arizona in the United States has sued Alphabet’s Google in a consumer fraud lawsuit on Wednesday for its “deceptive” practices of using consumer’s location data.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a series of tweets explained the circumstances under which the lawsuit was filed.

“Today we filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Google for deceptive and unfair practices used to obtain users’ location data, which Google then exploits for its lucrative advertising business,” Brnovich had tweeted.

The tech giant has been accused of using users’ location data in an unlawful manner to boost its ad practices.

“When consumers try to opt-out of Google’s collection of location data, the company is continuing to find misleading ways to obtain information and use it for profit,” Brnovich had said in an interview as quoted by Washington Post.

“In 2019 over 80% of Google’s revenues - $135B out of $161B - were generated through advertising. Google collects detailed information about its users, including their physical locations, to target users for advertising. Often, this is done without the users’ consent or knowledge,” the Attorney General had tweeted.

Referring to an article in AP News regarding how the search giant uses location data for its advertising business whether or not does the user consent to it, Brnovich wrote, “We began our investigation of Google following a 2018 @AP article that detailed how users are lulled into a false sense of security, believing Google provides users the ability to actually disable their Location History.”

“We brought forward this action to put a stop to Google’s deceptive collection of user data, obtain monetary relief, and require Google to disgorge gross receipts arising from its Arizona activities,” he added.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages arguing that the company which makes the Android OS for smartphones is deceiving smartphone owners regarding the protection of their personal data on their phones by setting its mobile software as such to do the same.

"Through these deceptive and unfair acts and practices, Google makes it impractical if not impossible for users to meaningfully opt-out of Google's collection of location information, should the users seek to do so," the complaint read.

The lawsuit comes at a time when the big tech company has been facing a lot of scrutiny for its business practices in terms of user data and advertising. According to a Washington Post report, over 40 attorney generals in the US-led by Texas are looking to investigate the company’s practices and are likely to file more such lawsuits by fall.

The tech major’s practices are also being probed into Europe under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Its primary regulators in Europe earlier this year have launched formal investigations into its processing of personal data in the context of its online Ad Exchange along with its processing of location data, TechCrunch reported.

Google in its statement had said that the Attorney General and the lawyers behind this lawsuit appear to have “mischaracterized” its services, Reuters reported. The company provides “robust controls” for location data and has built privacy features into its products, it added.

Published on May 29, 2020

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