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Google sued by Arizona over location data and alleged consumer fraud

The search giant collects data without users' "consent or knowledge," Arizona's attorney general claims.

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Google is being sued over how it collects location data on Android phones.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google on Wednesday was hit by a lawsuit filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, alleging the search giant deceived its users in order to collect location data from their phones. 

The company generates the vast majority of its revenue through its massive advertising operation, which is buttressed by personal information Google collects when people use its products. But users were "lulled into a false sense of security" because Google led users to believe they disabled settings for location data gathering, when they were still turned on, Brnovich wrote on Twitter.

"Google collects detailed information about its users, including their physical locations, to target users for advertising," Brnovich wrote. "Often, this is done without the users' consent or knowledge."

The lawsuit seeks damages, but the amount is unclear. Brnovich's office didn't respond to a request for comment. The Washington Post earlier reported news of the complaint. 

In a statement, Google defended its policies around location data. "The Attorney General and the contingency fee lawyers filing this lawsuit appear to have mischaracterized our services," spokesman Jose Castaneda said. "We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight."  

The lawsuit comes two years after an investigation by the Associated Press, which scrutinized Google's location data practices on phones running Android, the company's mobile operating system. The news outlet reported that Google still tracks people's whereabouts even if they turn off a setting called Location History. 

If that setting is paused, the company still tracks where users go, though the app won't record the places they've been in their Google Maps timelines, the report said. Users could, however, pause location tracking by turning off another setting, called Web and Apps Activity. 

Brnovich's lawsuit is only the latest blowback Google has faced from state officials. In February, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sued Google for allegedly violating federal child privacy laws through its educational platforms. The lawsuit accused Google of collecting information on students' locations, their passwords and what websites they've visited.

Google is also under investigation by a coalition of state attorneys general, led by Texas AG Ken Paxton, probing the company's dominance in online advertising. The group is reportedly preparing to file a case in the fall.