Lawsuit takes aim at Google for constant location history tracking

Posted:
in General Discussion
A man from San Diego has launched a class action suit versus Google over the recent discovery that the company's iOS and Android apps continue to track a user's location even if Location History is disabled, calling the unwanted tracking a breach of the user's privacy.




The lawsuit from Napoleon Patacsil, filed for himself and "on behalf of other persons similarly situated," latches on to the recent revelation that Google's services monitor a user's location constantly, including when users attempt to disable it. Filed to the U.S. District Court of San Francisco on Friday, the suit alleges that Google misrepresents the option to disable the tracking, and in turn works against the privacy of consumers in general.

A report from earlier in August confirmed the location of a smartphone or tablet will still be tracked even if a Location History setting is disabled. To fully disable it, users need to also turn off another setting for Web and App Activity, but this is unclear to most users who assume Google will honor the Location History setting as intended.

Apps like Google Maps need location access for some functionality, such as real-time navigation, while other apps may require the data for other reasons, such as targeted advertising or search results. Many of Google's apps, both on iOS and Android, report back location data to the company's servers.

A few days after the investigation was published, Google updated its support documents to better explain the Location History feature, effectively confirming the continued collection of location data. The new language for the setting explains it will not affect other location services on the user's device, while also warning some location data may continue to be saved.

The lawsuit accuses Google of violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act and California's Constitutional Right to Privacy, as well as an unlawful intrusion upon seclusion. "Google affirmatively - and misleadingly - represented to both Android and Apple device users that turning off Location History would result in Google ceasing to track, record, and use an individual's location information," the suit claims.

Calling the intrusions "highly offensive to a reasonable person," the suit goes on to suggest Google's principal goal was to "surreptitiously monitor Plaintiff and Class members and to allow third-parties to do the same."

The suit also references the recognition of the Supreme Court in 2018 that location data is highly sensitive data, noting a comment from Chief Justice John Roberts suggesting a phone "achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone user."

The lawsuit is seeking class-action status, with the inclusion of separate "Android" and "iPhone" classes, with each representing "all natural persons residing in the United States" owning each device, and found their data was recorded even after turning off Location History.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    Well done!
    jbdragonracerhomie3watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 23
    I would not be thrilled having to defend Google in this case. How does one represent their actions as unintentional or not misleading while also coming off as believable?
    Carnage[Deleted User]jbdragonanton zuykovracerhomie3olswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 23
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Google is nothing but pure evil.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    Where EU when you need them?
    jbdragonviclauyycolswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    Isn't this something the FTC should be looking into, and not some "individual" with a money-hungry lawyer? And if the FTC does fine Google, does that prevent any future class actions from individuals?
    watto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 6 of 23
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,007member
    You’d have a really difficult time proving damages. Talk about an opportunistic (and spurious) lawsuit.
  • Reply 7 of 23
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,957member
    You’d have a really difficult time proving damages. Talk about an opportunistic (and spurious) lawsuit.
    People sue Apple all the time for spurious reasons.Why not Google as they have big pockets too? If he is “highly offended” as the article states, shouldn’t he be compensated for his emotional pain? After all, it’s the American Way. Superman would approve.
    edited August 2018 muthuk_vanalingam[Deleted User]anton zuykovracerhomie3watto_cobraCarnage
  • Reply 8 of 23
    matrix077 said:
    Where EU when you need them?

    Don't worry. Vestager always take her time, but it always hurt!
    muthuk_vanalingam[Deleted User]matrix077jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 576member
    Very conflicted on this. On one hand what Google did was deceitful and abusive. They should be penalized for it. On the other hand, these lawsuits do nothing but line lawyers pockets. As others have pointed out Apple has been on the receiving end of lots of spurious, greed driven, lawsuits. this will just be chalked up to another greedy lawyer looking for a payoff, and swept under the rug. No real harm in the public eye will be done to Google's reputation. The settlement will bo pocket change to Google. There will be no re4al penalty. The FTC should be stepping in and laying serious charges against Google. Deceptive Trade Practices, Fraud, something like that.
    jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    matrix077 said:
    Where EU when you need them?
    I would almost guarantee that they are already investigating. This is exactly what GDPR is for - simplifying privacy agreements so they aren't misleading and important details buried in the fine print. In theory they could be fined a few percent of turnover. 
    matrix077jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 255member
    matrix077 said:
    Where EU when you need them?
    They'll come around. It takes time to investigate and make the case, but the EU is more proactive about consumer protection than other governments. I'm curious to see how hefty will be the fine.
    matrix077watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,166member
    Mr. 'Defends anything Google' will be here soon to explain it to us with links to proof Google is not guilty of anything, ever.  He must be still reading the email from Alphabet HQ with his instructions.  ;)
    watto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 13 of 23
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,166member
    You’d have a really difficult time proving damages. Talk about an opportunistic (and spurious) lawsuit.
    OK, I will ... mmmm...  how about 99% of lawsuits against Apple ... how's that? ;)

    I just hope Google gets a bigger target on its back than Apple soon, I don't own any Alphabet stock.  haha.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    racerhomie3racerhomie3 Posts: 1,062member
    A lawsuit I finally agree with. Godspeed.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 23
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 783member
    I am not sure how to assess damages for the class but shouldn’t a California DA take them to court for statute violation and fines?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 783member
    maybe we can shine the GG searchlight on a building from Alphabet HQ and have GatorGuy explain it to us :-)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,451member
    badmonk said:
    maybe we can shine the GG searchlight on a building from Alphabet HQ and have GatorGuy explain it to us :-)
    It's cute that you want to keep inviting me to comment on issues you have no intention of actually discussing anyway, but here ya' go, prove me wrong. What do you actually think about toggle settings that may not mean what a typical user would think they mean? Misleading, or worse intentionally deceptive? This is from a couple days back, and no one seems willing to discuss it. You can be the first.

     https://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/comment/3084089/#Comment_3084089
    "You assume someone would want to turn off location services only to prevent ad targeting based in part on location data. Some here have a "fear of authorities", or "fear of an ex" or "fear they'll be found someplace they shouldn't be", rational or not, and simply want to avoid ALL location logging. In general Apple doesn't make that any easier than Google does it?

    Yes. "what they do" with data does matter. Google uses location to deliver more relevant ads (for that matter so does Apple on a lesser scale but that's not what we're discussing). In general Apple does so to "improve their services". 

    The fact that a user toggling an iOS "Location Services" master switch to "OFF" with the expectation that off means off also matters doesn't it? That you and others in the discussion wouldn't want to acknowledge that is understandable, tho plainly disingenuous. I'm honest enough to come out and plainly state that IMO it's misleading if not outright deceptive in Google's case to do so. Are you honest enough to admit IF Apple's "Location Services" master "OFF" setting doesn't mean location tracking is completely off for everything it might also be "misleading if not outright deceptive"? 

    If the headline instead read:

    Apple tracks users even when 'Location Services' is disabled

    would it still be accurate?"

    And if you're not aware of what I'm referring to when talking about misleading user settings see this post:
    https://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/comment/3084058/#Comment_3084058

    If you and others are truly desiring a discussion about the problem itself rather than a relatively thoughtless bash opportunity then have it. I'll even chime in. Otherwise it serves no benefit for me to keep saying "yeah Google was wrong" if no one is honestly interested in the why's, or simply willing to be honest period.  Some of our most vociferous members can be so disingenuous at times and make it frustratingly difficult to have an honest thread.
    edited August 2018 Carnage
  • Reply 18 of 23
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    gatorguy said:
    badmonk said:
    maybe we can shine the GG searchlight on a building from Alphabet HQ and have GatorGuy explain it to us :-)
    It's cute that you want to keep inviting me to comment on issues you have no intention of actually discussing anyway, but here ya' go, prove me wrong. What do you actually think about toggle settings that may not mean what a typical user would think they mean? Misleading, or worse intentionally deceptive? This is from a couple days back, and no one seems willing to discuss it. You can be the first.

     https://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/comment/3084089/#Comment_3084089
    "You assume someone would want to turn off location services only to prevent ad targeting based in part on location data. Some here have a "fear of authorities", or "fear of an ex" or "fear they'll be found someplace they shouldn't be", rational or not, and simply want to avoid ALL location logging. In general Apple doesn't make that any easier than Google does it?

    Yes. "what they do" with data does matter. Google uses location to deliver more relevant ads (for that matter so does Apple on a lesser scale but that's not what we're discussing). In general Apple does so to "improve their services". 

    The fact that a user toggling an iOS "Location Services" master switch to "OFF" with the expectation that off means off also matters doesn't it? That you and others in the discussion wouldn't want to acknowledge that is understandable, tho plainly disingenuous. I'm honest enough to come out and plainly state that IMO it's misleading if not outright deceptive in Google's case to do so. Are you honest enough to admit IF Apple's "Location Services" master "OFF" setting doesn't mean location tracking is completely off for everything it might also be "misleading if not outright deceptive"? 

    If the headline instead read:

    Apple tracks users even when 'Location Services' is disabled

    would it still be accurate?"

    And if you're not aware of what I'm referring to when talking about misleading user settings see this post:
    https://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/comment/3084058/#Comment_3084058

    If you and others are truly desiring a discussion about the problem itself rather than a relatively thoughtless bash opportunity then have it. I'll even chime in. Otherwise it serves no benefit for me to keep saying "yeah Google was wrong" if no one is honestly interested in the why's, or simply willing to be honest period.  Some of our most vociferous members can be so disingenuous at times and make it frustratingly difficult to have an honest thread.
    Apple would never misuse data. That's why.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 23
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,166member
    badmonk said:
    maybe we can shine the GG searchlight on a building from Alphabet HQ and have GatorGuy explain it to us :-)
    We were both up too early for him this time.  ROFL
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,451member
    MacPro said:
    badmonk said:
    maybe we can shine the GG searchlight on a building from Alphabet HQ and have GatorGuy explain it to us :-)
    We were both up too early for him this time.  ROFL
    See Post 17. You're still invited. 

    Apple says you can:
     "disable Location Services at any time. To do so, open Settings on your iPhone, tap Privacy, tap Location Services, and either turn off the global Location Services switch or turn off the individual location switch of each location-aware app or feature by setting it to “Never”.

    So is that true? Does it really turn off all location logging from then on or like Google there's actually other settings to REALLY turn everything off? 

    edited August 2018 Carnage
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