CONFUSION BY DESIGN: Unredacted suit shows Google’s own engineers confused by privacy settings.

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Newly unsealed and partially unredacted documents from a consumer fraud suit the state of Arizona filed against Google show that company employees knew and discussed among themselves that the company’s location privacy settings were confusing and potentially misleading.

In 2018, the Associated Press reported that Maps and some other Google services (on both iPhone and Android) were storing users’ location data even when users had explicitly turned Location History off.

“There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services,” a Google spokesperson told the AP at the time. “We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.”

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office launched its own investigation following the AP report, and in May 2020 the state sued Google, alleging that the company violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

The initial lawsuit was heavily redacted, as the Arizona Mirror reports. But following an August 3 petition from trade groups Digital Content Next and the News Media Alliance, the judge has ordered several documents related to the case to be unsealed, and a new, less-redacted version of the suit is now available.


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