Does Google always track the user's location?

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Steven L. Ken

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Last year, the Arizona Attorney General (Mark Brnovich) sued Google why Android tracks the location of users without their consent, even if the specific functionality has been disabled. A document filed for the lawsuit now reveals the alleged methods used by the Mountain View company to make it more difficult to find the settings on the privacy.

Does Google always track the location?

The document contains some testimonials from Google engineers and executives confirming the practices adopted for prevent users from turning off location tracking in the Android settings. Jack Menzel, former Vice President of the Google Maps group, admitted that the only way to avoid tracking is to enter random addresses for home and work. Jen Chai, a product manager, didn't know how the various privacy settings interact with each other.

The document describes the techniques used to collect location information, even if the user has disabled the corresponding option in the settings. This happens leveraging WiFi and third-party apps, as well as through Google Maps. The design of Android has also been changed to “hide” the privacy settings. Google also allegedly lobbied various manufacturers to accomplish this.

The reason seems quite clear: the more data collected, the better the user profile and the higher the profits from personalized advertisements. Android 12 includes several privacy features, including the ability to share only your approximate location with apps. A Google spokesperson said:

Brnovich and our competitors leading this cause have gone to great lengths to misrepresent our services. We have always integrated privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We can't wait to set the record straight.

We receive in the editorial office and publish the statement attributed to a Google spokesperson.

Privacy controls have long been integrated into our services, and our teams are continually working to discuss and improve them. As for the location information, we have received constructive feedback and have put in extensive work to improve privacy control. In fact, even the published excerpt selection clearly indicates that the team's goal was to reduce confusion about location history settings.

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