States Sue Google for Using Dark Patterns & Deception to Amass Location Data

January 24, 2022

Attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Texas, Washington, and Indiana sued Google today alleging that it used dark patterns to repeatedly nudge users to provide more location data. The suit also alleges that Google misled users about their ability to protect their privacy through account settings. The D.C. lawsuit highlights how Google has a strong financial incentive to prevent consumers from opting out of location data tracking because the data provides better advertising capabilities. The complaint details how users must navigate several misleading and conflicting settings to control the collection and use of their location data. Even after users opt out of location data collection, Google can still collect and store location data through other services, scans, and third parties. In 2017, EPIC highlighted many of the privacy issues with Google’s Web & App Activity—one of the data collection settings targeted by the D.C. Attorney General—in a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. In 2018, EPIC brought the first location data tracking lawsuit under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act against Accuweather alleging that the company engaged in unlawful and deceptive practices in its collection, use, and disclosure of personal location data. EPIC previously urged the D.C. Attorney General to investigate the unfair and deceptive employment of dark patterns in a complaint against Amazon, alleging that the company used dark patterns in the Amazon Prime subscription cancelation process and continued to collect, use, and retain the personal data of misdirected Amazon customers.

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