Internal ‘unredacted’ Google documents reveal that the company tracks its users despite the ‘location sharing’ option being turned off by using other apps or manipulating privacy settings.

The news, reported by Business Insider on May 28, explains that the company made it nearly impossible for users with the Android system on their cell phones to turn off their location.

Jack Menzel, a former vice president who oversaw Google Maps, said the only way Google would not find out a user’s home and work location is if that person intentionally misled Google by using other random addresses such as home and work.

The documents were requested by a judge prosecuting a lawsuit against Google brought by the Arizona attorney general that accuses the Silicon Valley giant of profiting from these less-than-transparent practices in violation of consumer protection laws.

Arizona Attorney General Dr. Mark Brnovich said, “While Google users are led to believe they can opt-out of location tracking, the company exploits other avenues to invade personal privacy.”

“It’s nearly impossible to stop Google from tracking your movements without your knowledge or consent,” he said, adding that “even the most innovative companies must operate within the law,” he added.

Dr. Brnovich is seeking to have Google pay back the money it earned by using its users’ location without their consent and levy fines of $10,000 for each violation.

According to the documents, Google allegedly pressured cell phone maker LG and others to ‘hide’ or ‘make it difficult’ to find privacy settings precisely to prevent users from easily blocking location sharing options, also called geolocation.

In addition, Google also asked cell phone manufacturers to show users that their privacy was protected—when in fact it was not— ‘in order to assuage [manufacturers’] privacy concerns.’

Google uses other apps on the cell phone to track the user’s location, i.e., even if the person opts out of location sharing with Google, Android can use another app with which the user is indeed sharing their data.

” The Attorney General and the contingency fee lawyers filing this lawsuit appear to have mischaracterized our services,” a spokesperson from Google said. “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight.”

Google the monopoly on digital ads

In December 2020, 10 Attorney Generals sued Google for monopolizing the digital ad business, making it nearly impossible for businesses that don’t pay Google to appear in searches on Google’s engine, the world’s largest.

The lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accuses Google of colluding with Facebook to manipulate the online advertising market and limit competition.

“If the free market were a baseball game, Google positioned itself as the pitcher, the batter and the umpire,” exclaimed Dr. Paxton.

Although the company has denied being a monopoly, in practice today it is virtually impossible for a business to be known except through Google’s search service.

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