AGs Sue Google, Alleging it ‘Relied on Dark Patterns, Misled Users, and Profited from Consumer Data’

A lawsuit filed on Monday in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia claims that for at least eight years, Google LLC has deceived consumers about how their location is tracked and used and about their ability to opt-out of tracking. According to a tweet by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine, his counterparts from Indiana, Texas, and Washington have also filed similar consumer protection suits.

The District’s 43-page complaint, filed under seal on Monday, explains that in 2018, the Associated Press released an important report. It found that Google, via its Android OS and its apps and services, records users’ movements even when they explicitly decline to give the company permission to do so. This prompted the attorney general’s office to initiate an investigation into the company’s “exhaustive surveillance practices,” the complaint said.

The investigation concluded that although Google leads consumers to believe that they are in control of whether it collects, retains, and uses information about their location, “[i]n reality, consumers who use Google products cannot prevent Google from collecting, storing, and profiting from their location.” The complaint details how users are asked to “navigate numerous, conflicting controls to protect their location data,” that ultimately frustrate users’ ability to make informed choices about the collection and use of their personal data.  

The lawsuit asserts causes of action for misrepresentations and omissions in violation of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CCPA) and unfair trade practices in violation of the same. The counts allege that Google violates the law by deceiving customers about the degree of control they exercise over personal data. 

The complaint seeks to halt the allegedly harmful practices and to “ensure that consumers are no longer coerced into trading away their privacy.” It also seeks disgorgement of all ill-gotten profits and the imposition of civil penalties for Google’s alleged CCPA violations.

Notably, Attorney General Racine has also spearheaded actions against other tech companies, such as Facebook for purported violations of the CCPA in connection with consumer privacy violations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.