Google Hid Privacy Settings on Android Phones, Made Confusing Data Collection Policies

Last year, Arizona's attorney general sued the tech giant for its unethical Android data collection practices and unredacted documents from that lawsuit have been released on the web.

Google hid privacy settings and made them harder to find, according to unredacted documents from a lawsuit in Arizona, US cited in a report. Google is said to have continued to collect location data, even when key location sharing was turned off. The documents also reportedly reveal that Google's own executives and engineers know how difficult it is for smartphone users to keep their location data private.

The documents reveal that Google pressurised OEMs like LG to hide settings “precisely because users liked them” and made popular privacy settings harder to find, as per the report. The tech giant is said to have collected user location data by using different methods like Wi-Fi, or third-party apps not affiliated with Google.

The unredacted documents were first accessed by Business Insider and they reportedly reveal that Google continued to collect location data even when the location-sharing settings were turned off. A judge ordered new sections of the documents to be unredacted last week in response to a request by trade groups Digital Content Next and News Media Alliance.

The documents, as per the report, also revealed that Google deliberately obscures its data collection practices, confusing users and its own employees. Former VP of Google Maps, Jack Menzel reportedly admitted during a deposition that the only way “Google wouldn't be able to figure out a user's home and work locations is if that person intentionally threw Google off the trail by setting their home and work addresses as some other random locations”.

According to the documents cited in the report, when Google tested more accessible privacy settings, most users were seen to take advantage of these.

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