Bad News for Big Tech: Red and Blue States Sue to Liberate Millions from Google's Secret Tracking Campaign
A motley crew of American jurisdictions are suing Google over what they allege are deceptive privacy practices and “dark patterns” baked into software to pressure users into selecting settings that are more advantageous for the tech giant.
Attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Texas, Washington and Indiana moved to file a lawsuit against Google on Monday over misleading statements to users who opted to turn off their location tracking, as well as features designed to pressure users into turning location tracking on, according to the Washington Post.
“Google falsely led consumers to believe that changing their account and device settings would allow customers to protect their privacy and control what personal data the company could access,” the office of Democratic D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
“The truth is that contrary to Google’s representations it continues to systematically surveil customers and profit from customer data. Google’s bold misrepresentations are a clear violation of consumers’ privacy.”
Racine told the Post that “Google uses tricks to continuously seek to track a user’s location.”
He explained that the suit is being filed on a “bipartisan basis” and is “an overdue enforcement action against a flagrant violator of privacy and the laws of our states.”
The D.C. lawsuit states, “Google’s misleading, ambiguous and incomplete descriptions of these settings all but guarantee that consumers will not understand when their location is collected and retained by Google or for what purposes.”
“And, in reality, regardless of the settings they select, consumers who use Google products have no option but to allow the Company to collect, store and use their location,” the suit alleges.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made similar allegations in his statement, according to the Free Beacon. He said that Google tells users that “the places you go are no longer stored,” yet they continue to track user location “through other settings and methods” that Google “fails to adequately disclose.”
Google, for its part, denies the attorneys general’s claims. In a statement, the company’s spokesman José Castañeda claimed that the case is “based on inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings,” the Free Beacon reported.
“We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the record straight,” he said, according to the Post.
D.C. and the states are building their case on a 2020 lawsuit brought by the state of Arizona, which accused the company of designing their Android operating system in a way that benefited advertising revenue and deceived users about privacy settings, the outlet noted.
That case is currently pending.
This new slate of suits, however, are likely to launch several years of legal battles between Google and the attorneys general, adding to multiple other challenges the tech giant has been faced with from state attorneys general, including antitrust suits.
I have to say, that in the middle of the large-scale, ideological food fight that has gripped our nation over the past several years — and often seems to spell the end of Western civilization as we know it — it’s weirdly heartening to see these respectfully far-left and deep-red locales team up to stick it to Big Tech.
We spend so much time focused on political divides in our country that, while they certainly matter, it can be easy to lose sight of the sheer amount of control over our private and public lives that a handful of tech oligarchs hold in their hand.
I have thought for a long time we’d do better to focus more heat on the people who have managed to so expansively infiltrate American society with information technology in such a short period of time, so hopefully my optimism will pay off in the long run.
If not with the outcome of this lawsuit, then with what it could do to spark conversations about how we can more effectively check the expansion of Big Tech and their currently near-unfettered access to our data.
It’s high time we reign in the power they’ve amassed for themselves, something which would drastically improve the lives of every American.
They’ve been taking our money, tracking our activities, controlling their markets and playing god with our free speech and political discourse for far too long.
Few things could be better for our country right now than holding Big Tech accountable for their shadowy practices.
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