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Google Tracking with Location History Turned Off Class Action

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Google tracks and stores your every geographical move, the complaint for this class action says. And if you opt out of the tracking by turning off Location History, the complaint says, it still continues to track you. 

The class for this action is all natural persons living in the US who own an Android or Apple mobile phone, who turned off Location History, but whose location information continued to be recorded and used by Google. A New York State subclass has also been proposed.

Google claims that if users disable the Location History feature on their devices or accounts, then Google will no longer track them and store their location data. The complaint quotes a Google support page as saying, “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” Google further promises, “When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google Account.” 

But this is not true, the complaint says; Google still receives and stores geolocation information even with Location History off. 

The complaint says that this information comes from a recent Associated Press (AP) report that has been confirmed by computer-science researchers at Princeton. According to the AP report, “Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like ‘chocolate chip cookies’ or ‘kids science kits,’ pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude—accurate to the square foot—and save it to your Google account.”

In fact, the complaint says, the only thing that turning off Location History does is stop Google from creating a location timeline that the user can see. But Google can still track and see the user’s location information. 

It’s a bad enough invasion of privacy to determine and record this personal information, the complaint says, but it’s worse when Google does it expressly against the wishes of users. 

What does Google do with the information? The complaint claims it sells it to other companies, to be used in marketing and advertising. Google, it says, “generates enormous revenues from it.” According to the complaint, ”Last year Google earned $95.4 billion from location-related advertising.”

Can the tracking and recording be turned off? Yes, the complaint claims, but not in the way Google says: Users must both turn off Location History and disable a setting called Web & App Activity, which is not easy to find. 

The complaint claims that Google has violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act and New York’s General Business Law, and engaged in intentional and negligent misrepresentation.

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