Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a suit against Google over location tracking. Attorney General Brnovich claimed Google used “deceptive and unfair practices to obtain users’ location data, which Google then exploits for its lucrative advertising business.” The Attorney General claims that Google’s conduct violates the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. AG Brnovich has sought to stop Google’s collection and use of this data, as well as monetary relief, such as forcing Google to “disgorge gross receipts arising from its Arizona activities.”
The majority of Google’s revenue and profits come from advertising. According to the complaint, Google collects user information, such as geographic location, which it uses to target advertising. This information is often collected without a user’s knowledge or permission. The data collection allows Google “to validate the effectiveness of ads by reporting to advertisers how often online ad clicks are converted into real-world store visits.”
In August 2018, Arizona began its investigation of Google after an AP article “detailed how users are lulled into a false sense of security, believing Google provided users the ability to actually disable their Location History.” Google informed users that “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” However, this statement was allegedly false because “even with Location History off, Google surreptitiously collects location information through other settings such as Web & App Activity and uses that information to sell ads.” Additionally, the information Google disclosed about Web & App Activity “misled users into believing that setting had nothing to do with tracking user location. Google’s account set-up disclosures made no mention of the fact that location information is collected through Web and App Activity, which is defaulted to ‘on,’ until early-to mid-2018.” \
Brnovich alleged that Google provided a false sense of security to users, who believed they had some control over their location data when instead the tech giant took measures to circumvent these data privacy measures. The investigation also uncovered that Google “uses deceptive and unfair practices to collect as much user information as possible and makes it exceedingly difficult for users to understand what’s being done with their data, let alone opt-out.”
“While Google users are led to believe they can opt-out of location tracking, the company exploits other avenues to invade personal privacy,” Brnovich said in a statement. “It’s nearly impossible to stop Google from tracking your movements without your knowledge or consent. This is contrary to the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and even the most innovative companies must operate within the law.”
Arizona is being represented by the Attorney General’s Office, as well as Cooper & Kirk, and Ruttenberg IP Law.