The attorneys general for Texas, Indiana, Washington, and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming it used “deceptive and unfair” practices in obtaining users’ location data.
Karl A. Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia, announced in a statement on Monday that the lawsuit was seeking to end Google’s “illegal use of ‘dark patterns’” and to “claw back profits made from location data.”
Racine claims Google has surveilled users’ information since 2014, regardless of their privacy settings, creating a deceptive illusion that data is not being tracked. The lawsuit claims that if Google users turned off their location data, they were sent notifications that tried to trick them into sharing it again.
“By repeatedly ‘nudging’ users to enable Google Account settings, Google increases the chances that a user will enable the setting inadvertently or out of frustration,” the lawsuit states.
It also accuses the tech company of deploying “misleading, ambiguous, and incomplete descriptions” of certain privacy settings and updates, leading many to share data without the knowledge they are doing so.
These practices “harm consumers who wish to protect their sensitive location information” from Google and its advertising companies, the attorneys general wrote.
Google has denied the accusations, saying the lawsuit presents “inaccurate claims and outdated assertions about our settings.” They promised to “vigorously” defend themselves against the charges.