Google is one of the most powerful technology companies and with great power comes a tad-bit extra responsibility, responsibility to comply with all the rules and regulations, comply with user privacy and security, comply with ethical practices such as no gender bias in the workplace etc. etc. Google has been in the highlights for good reasons and bad but this time, it is really about how difficult the Android-maker can make it for users to keep their location data private.
Yes, according to a report by Business Insider, new documents surfaced in a lawsuit against Google where the company’s own top executives and engineers have revealed that how difficult Google has made it for users to keep their location data private from the company.
These documents were a part of a lawsuit filed against Google by the Attorney general’s office, Arizona in 2020 where the search engine company was accused of collecting location data from users even after they have turned it off from their smartphones.
The two Google executives were Jen Chai and Jack Manzel.
Jen Chai, a senior product manager at Google, in charge of location services was clearly unaware of how the complex Google algorithms and privacy settings interacted with each other, according to the filed documents.
Jack Menzel, Former Vice President, Google Maps admitted during the lawsuit deposition that the only way Google could not know your work or home address is if your deliberately set your home and workplace addresses as some random locations. He says, this is the only way to throw Google off the trail, as mentioned in a report by Business Insider.
Not just this, the documents also revealed that Google pushed Android smartphone makers to hide location settings deep inside the system. Smartphone makers like LG and others were asked by Google to make popular privacy settings harder to explore so that users cannot turn off location settings easily.
Google has more than one way to know its users’ location at all time. As mentioned in the documents, the search engine company can collect user’s location data via third-party apps, Wi-Fi, Google’s own apps like Google Maps and more.
The report by Business Insider mentions,
One employee questioned Google asking if there is any way that a user can give location data access to a third-party application on their smartphone without revealing it to Google, to which the company spokesperson said, “This doesn’t sound like something we would want on the front page of the New York Times”.
This is bad news for Android users and maybe, for once, everyone should consider joining the Apple ecosystem. At least it knows what privacy actually means!