Privacy Law

Class action filed against Google over location tracking

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Google Headquarters, Mountain View, California. achinthamb /

A California man has brought a suit against Google for collecting location data, even when “Location History” was turned off.

The class action brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California comes on the heels of an AP report that found Google applications were still collecting location data after users had affirmatively turned off location tracking.

The filing alleges that the deceptive practice is in violation of California’s Invasion of Privacy Act and the state’s Constitutional Right to Privacy.

Previously, it was believed—and stated by Google—that disabling “Location History” meant that the company was no longer tracking a user’s location.

Last Friday, after the AP report, Google changed language on its website to state that: “Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps,” according to Ars Technica.

The suit seeks to create two classes of plaintiffs, including Android and iPhone classes.

At the same time, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group, wrote to the Federal Trade Commission that this practice clearly violates the 2011 FTC consent decree and has asked the agency to enforce the order.

In the decree, Google agreed to not misrepresent “the extent to which consumers may exercise control over the collection, use, or disclosure of covered information.”

In recent years, location data collected by tech firms like Google has played an increasing role in criminal investigations. Earlier this year, it was brought to the public’s attention that police in North Carolina were using broad “reverse search warrants” to collect anonymized location data from Google and then work backwards to see who was near the scene of a crime. Such warrants were used in four investigations in 2017, and there has been an arrest in only one of those cases, WRAL reported in March.

See also: North Carolina police issue broad warrants for data from Google users near crime scenes

The FBI attempted something similar earlier this year when they asked Google for identifying information of all its services’ users who were near at least two of nine robberies in Portland, Maine. Google did not provide the information, according to Forbes, and the police found their suspect anyway.

For those interested in limiting what Google collects about them, the AP has a guide for Android and iOS users.

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