Tech giant Google is facing allegations of intentionally making it difficult for users to hide their location data from the company. As reported first by Business Insider, unredacted documents from a recent lawsuit against Google showed that the company hadn’t just made it difficult for users to hide location data, but also pressure smartphone makers like LG to follow in its footsteps.
The documents also showed that Google’s own employees were aware and worried about the issue. They quoted at least two employees who noted that users couldn’t share location with an app on their Android phone without sharing that same data with Google. “This may be how Apple is eating our lunch,” the employees added, saying that the iPhone maker was “much more likely” to let users hide their location data from the company.
As more proof of Google’s misdirection, one of the company’s former vice presidents for Google Maps, Jack Menzel, also admitted (during a deposition) that there was no way for users to hide their home and work locations from Google. That is, unless they intentionally set wrong addresses for home and work on Maps. The Android-maker apparently also tested versions of its operating system which made it easier to find privacy settings, but it saw users taking advantage of the ease as a “problem”, which it solved by making it more difficult to find these settings.
Lastly, Google tried to convince smartphone makers to do the same “through active misrepresentations and/or concealment, suppression, or omission of facts,” the documents, which are now part of public record on the Arizona Attorney General’s website, showed. The documents aren’t directly accessible in the US, but you can use a virtual private network (VPN) to go through the entire list.
That said, Google has denied the allegations in a statement. A company spokesperson told The Verge that the lawsuit is driven by its competitors and they “have gone out of their way to mischaracterize” Google’s services. “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight,” the spokesperson added.
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