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Arizona sues Google over claims it illegally collected location data from smartphone users even after they opted out (GOOG, GOOGL)

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo
  • Arizona has filed a lawsuit against Google accusing it of illegally collecting smartphone users' location data, attorney general Mark Brnovich said in a press release on Wednesday.
  • The lawsuit claims Google violated Arizona's consumer fraud laws by tracking users' locations even when they had disabled location tracking settings and demands Google repay any money it made as a result.
  • "The Attorney General and the contingency fee lawyers filing this lawsuit appear to have mischaracterized our services," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. "We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data."
  • Google has repeatedly come under fire for how it collects and uses data, both in the US and globally.
  • The company could also soon face two additional lawsuits, one from state attorneys general and another from the DOJ, as probes into the company's ad and search dominance wind down.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Google is facing another legal challenge accusing it of illegally collecting users' data, this time from Arizona, whose attorney general filed a lawsuit against the company on Wednesday.
The lawsuit claims that Google violated Arizona's consumer fraud laws by continuing to collect smartphone location information even after users explicitly opted out of location tracking, "which Google then exploits to power its lucrative advertising business."
"While Google users are led to believe they can opt-out of location tracking, the company exploits other avenues to invade personal privacy," Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a press release.
"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."
Arizona alleges that Google misleads users by making it "impractical if not impossible" to actually opt out of its data collection practices by confusing them with a labyrinth of settings, continually changing how location-sharing permissions work, and deceiving them about when it deletes their information.
"The Attorney General and the contingency fee lawyers filing this lawsuit appear to have mischaracterized our services," a spokesperson from Google said in a statement to Business Insider. "We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight."
Arizona is seeking to force Google to forfeit any profits it made as a result of the alleged surreptitious data collection, pay back consumers, and pay the state up to $10,000 in fines per violation.
The lawsuit is the result of a two-year-long investigation that Arizona began in 2018 following a report from the Associated Press that found Google tracked smartphone users' locations through a variety of apps and services even if they had enabled a privacy setting that ostensibly prevented Google from doing so.
This is not the first time Google has faced legal scrutiny over how it collects and uses data.
Last December, the European Union opened a new antitrust investigation into how Google leverages data months after slapping the company with its third multibillion-dollar fine in just three years.
Regulators in the US have also been looking into whether Google's data practices unfairly give it an edge in its online ads and search businesses. A group of state attorneys general and the US Justice Department both have ongoing investigations that are expected to wrap up in the coming months and could result in additional lawsuits.
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