D.C., Three States to Sue Google for Tracking Trickery

Posted on January 24, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google with 8 Comments

This morning, the attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Indiana, Texas, and Washington will sue Google for deceiving consumers about how it continually tracks their location even when this feature has been disabled in their smartphones.

“Google uses tricks to continuously seek to track a user’s location,” D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said. “This suit, by four attorneys general on a bipartisan basis, is an overdue enforcement action against a flagrant violator of privacy and the laws of our states.”

According to the only report about the complaint, which will be filed today, Google has misled consumers about its tracking efforts since at least 2014 and it uses a variety of tricks to undermine their privacy. Google, the suit claims, uses “dark patterns” to subtly influence their privacy decisions in ways that are more advantageous to Google than they are to customers. That users, “inadvertently or out of frustration,” cede their location data to Google because of these practices. This violates various state and D.C. consumer protection laws.

The suit seeks to fine Google and prevent it from engaging in these practices.

Not coincidentally, Google this morning published a blog post, penned by its Privacy & User Trust product manager, explaining how the firm makes it easy for customers to protect their privacy and “control their ad experience.”

“To celebrate Data Privacy Day, we’re highlighting how we keep you safe online—and reminding you of the controls available to you,” the post explains. “Everything we build at Google is secure by default, private by design, and keeps you in control. It’s how we ensure that everyday [sic], you’re Safer with Google.”

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Comments (8)

8 responses to “D.C., Three States to Sue Google for Tracking Trickery”

  1. berkshirelass

    "secure by default, private by design"

    That's totally the wrong way round. It should be "secure by design, private by default". Google is such a mealy mouthed outfit.

    • winner

      Google is such a mealy mouthed outfit.

      Have you heard Microsoft's marketing department?

  2. LT1 Z51

    Until we get government to enforce (or create) provacy controls corporations will continue to abuse customers (especially those who are ignorant).

    But don't be alarmed if all the "useless" people who make a living on You Tube, Instagram, etc all fight this when they figure out privacy laws and regulation will affect their revenue stream (because less data to mine means ads cost less which means clicks generate less income for content creators).

    Personally, I think the whole "social media" job phenomenon has contributed to lower workforce participation and a generally "lazier" population so I'd be glad to see that these content creators can no longer makes thousands (if not millions) of dollars off of people (specifically children).

  3. RobertJasiek

    With "secure by default, private by design, and keeps you in control", Google sounds like Apple and its proclaimed "fundamental human right of privacy" while in reality the i(Pad)OS 15.2.1 iCloud terms (section V paragraphs A, C, E) self-grant Apple the "right" to unlimited access to, distribution and manipulation of the contents of all the users' files. Illegal and criminal under, e.g., German and EU laws.

    • ivarh

      Can you tell me how you can run a cloud service without permission to distribute the files of the customer to the cloud and attached devices? How to not access customers files in order to move them to and from the cloud service? How to run a photo album with edit functionality without the ability to modify the files?

      It is all about the complete text of what is in the terms of service. Using your reference I was not able to find anything looking like what you referenced on https://www.apple.com/au/legal/sla/

      • RobertJasiek

        There are several problems related to i(Pad)OS 15.2.1, iCloud, its terms (especially section V paragraphs A, C, E especially in their German version) and privacy.

        • iOS does not allow the customer to choose "Never" but only "Later". As a consequence, requests for "Accept" recur since mid December 2021.
        • Apple may have dropped its plans of mass surveillance on the endusers' devices in the name of child protection but has not altered the iCloud terms accordingly.
        • US secret services, US anti-terrorism laws and US gouvernments enforcing both want US-based IT companies enabling access to endusers' data while such is illegal, and partly even criminal in some other parts of the world, especially the EU and Germany. The iCloud terms are almost always written for the whole world instead of meeting different laws in different countries whenever necessary. Laws override a company's terms but by applying such terms the company already does damage for many years before laws are enforced in courts.
        • There are some valid rights given due to laws, such as warrants granted by justices and ensuing police actions. However, the iCloud terms self-grant Apple many more fake rights than necessary for law enforcement.
        • iCloud operation must be possible but the iCloud terms self-grant Apple many more fake rights than necessary for that purpose. The terms do not distinguish between the enduser's agreement or disagreement. The terms allow surveillance of contents when file management without access to contents would be sufficient. The terms allow distribution to any third persons in the world when instead minimal distribution and access would be right for a) normal cloud operation or b) cases of warrants and police investigation. The terms allow surveillance of contents of files on both the cloud and the endconsumers' devices when the access to contents is not needed at all (unless a user specifically seeks such, e.g., to feed Siri) and not needed on the endusers' local devices.
        • Apple envys Google's and Facebook's financial success from abusing endconsumer data and has not made up its mind yet whether it should continue the privacy route or join the greed route.
    • ivarh

      (darn, no edit post functionality)

      I did find this for iCloud on https://www.apple.com/au/legal/internet-services/icloud/en/terms.html that has some of the text you referred to:

      H. Content Submitted or Made Available by You on the Service

      1. License from You. Except for material we may license to you, Apple does not claim ownership of the materials and/or Content you submit or make available on the Service. However, by submitting or posting such Content on areas of the Service that are accessible by the public or other users with whom you consent to share such Content, you grant Apple a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available, without any compensation or obligation to you. You agree that any Content submitted or posted by you shall be your sole responsibility, shall not infringe or violate the rights of any other party or violate any laws, contribute to or encourage infringing or otherwise unlawful conduct, or otherwise be obscene, objectionable, or in poor taste. By submitting or posting such Content on areas of the Service that are accessible by the public or other users, you are representing that you are the owner of such material and/or have all necessary rights, licenses, and authorization to distribute it.

      Sounds a bit less sinister when you don't cut out "you grant Apple a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service" from the whole text...


  4. mikegalos

    This should be interesting. Washington State's Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, has a spectacular track record of winning national-level litigation.