After an investigation by the Associated Press revealed that Google was surreptitiously collecting location data on its users, one user, a San Diego resident by the name of Napoleon Patacsil, has filed a complaint against the company, claiming that it has intentionally violated California’s privacy laws.
The AP investigation showed that even after users turn off the Location History feature, the search giant continues to collect minute by minute location data on their movements and the places they visit, including their home address, using apps such as Google Maps, weather updates, and browser searches. AP’s findings were corroborated by computer science researchers at Princeton University.
The complaint reads: “Google represented that a user ‘can turn off Location History at any time. ‘With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.’ This simply was not true.”
The plaintiff is seeking class-action status on behalf of every iPhone and Android phone user in the US who had turned the tracking feature off. A judge will decide whether he go forward with his claim on behalf of every US citizen affected by Google’s illicit behavior.
AP’s revelation had also prompted attorneys from the Electronic Privacy Information Center to voice their anger to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The letter reprimanded Google, saying that it “is not permitted to track users after they have made clear in their privacy settings that they do not want to be tracked.” The letter also blamed the FTC for failing to enforce its Consent Orders.
Google did tweak its help section in response, which now says that “This setting,” in reference to the Location History, “does not affect other location services on your device,” and that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”
This might very likely turn out to be a little too late from Google.