'Apple is eating our lunch': Google employees admit in lawsuit that the company made it nearly impossible for users to keep their location private
- Even Google execs and employees in charge of
location datawere confused about how privacysettings worked.
- Google was sued by Arizona's attorney general over its data collection practices last year.
Newly unredacted documents in a lawsuit against Google reveal that the company's own executives and engineers knew just how difficult the company had made it for smartphone users to keep their location data private.Google continued collecting location data even when users turned off various location-sharing settings, made popular privacy settings harder to find, and even pressured LG and other phone makers into hiding settings precisely because users liked them, according to the documents.
Google and LG did not respond to requests for comment on this story.The documents are part of a lawsuit brought against Google by the Arizona attorney general's office last year, which accused the company of illegally collecting location data from smartphone users even after they opted out.
A judge ordered new sections of the documents to be unredacted last week in response to a request by trade groups Digital Content Next and
"So there is no way to give a third party app your location and not Google?" one employee said, according to the documents, adding: "This doesn't sound like something we would want on the front page of the [New York Times]."
When Google tested versions of its Android operating system that made privacy settings easier to find, users took advantage of them, which Google viewed as a "problem," according to the documents. To solve that problem, Google then sought to bury those settings deeper within the settings menu.Google also tried to convince smartphone makers to hide location settings "through active misrepresentations and/or concealment, suppression, or omission of facts" - that is, data Google had showing that users were using those settings - "in order to assuage [manufacturers'] privacy concerns."
Google employees appeared to recognize that users were frustrated by the company's aggressive data collection practices, potentially hurting its business.
"Fail #2: *I* should be able to get *my* location on *my* phone without sharing that information with Google," one employee said."This may be how Apple is eating our lunch," they added, saying Apple was "much more likely" to let users take advantage of location-based apps and services on their phones without sharing the data with Apple.
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