- An AP investigation in 2018 revealed that Google stored users' data despite them disabling the settings.
- Google currently faces a lawsuit under Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act for deceptive and unfair practises.
- Google employees in unsealed documents have said that they did not understand how its privacy settings work.
If you are confused about Google's privacy settings, then it is all right because Google employees seem to be equally clueless. This has been revealed in the documents submitted to a court for a lawsuit on Google's data collection policies.
An investigative article by AP in 2018 revealed that Google stored user's location data even if they switched it off. "I agree with the article. Location off should mean location off; not except for this case or that case," a Google employee noted in the article.
The unsealed document that has been submitted reveals comments from Google engineers who have stated that the privacy settings are too confusing for the general users. The complaints consist of Google employees venting about the company's privacy settings, Arizona Mirror noted.
"The current UI feels like it is designed to make things possible, yet difficult enough that people won't figure it out," one Google employee said, according to the heavily redacted documents. Other complaints from Google employees in the redacted documents were:
"Add me to the list of Googlers who didn't understand how this worked an [sic] was surprised when I read the article."
"Although I know it works and what the difference between 'Location' and 'Location History' is, I did not know that Web and App activity had anything to do with location."
The lawsuit was filed against Google in May by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich under Arizona's Consumer Fraud Act. The complaint accuses Google of engaging in deceptive and unfair business practices to gather users' information and location data, Gizmodo noted. "The recently unsealed documents reveal statements from Google's own engineers that are in conflict with what the company has been representing to the public," Brnovich said in a statement.
Google is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the Arizona law only applies to goods and services that charge consumers. That would exclude free services that draw upon the tracking tools that are at the heart of the lawsuit.
"Privacy controls have long been built into our services and our teams work continuously to discuss and improve them," Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said Wednesday. "In the case of location information, we've heard feedback, and have worked hard to improve our privacy controls. In fact, even these cherry picked published extracts state clearly that the team's goal was to 'Reduce confusion around Location History Settings'."
Over the years, Google has tweaked its settings and currently gives users more control over their activities. Currently Google's settings are such that a new user's data will now be set to delete in 18 months by default. This will involve the user's location history, web, and app activity.
If users have already set their data retention settings -the option to keep or delete their location, web or app history, Google will not change the settings. It will, however, give them notifications or reminders to keep their history in check.
The complaint argues that Google will still use general location information to target users. For example, Google will assume that you're within a general three kilometer area instead of using your exact GPS location on a map.