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Lawsuit accuses Google of tracking non-consenting users

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A complaint filed in a California court has accused Google of collecting activity data from users, even when they follow Google’s recommendations for blocking this data collection.

According to a Reuters report, the data privacy lawsuit was filed in a US district court in San Jose by Boies Schiller Flexner, and accuses Google of breaching federal wiretapping law and California privacy law. The claimants are seeking class action status.

According to the complaint, Google continues to collect data from users as they use various apps, despite the users having switched off 'Web & App Activity' tracking in their Google account settings. This data collection reportedly occurs through Google’s Firebase, an app which can run inside other apps without the user’s knowledge, collecting activity data and delivering notifications and ads. The lawsuit says that Google uses some data from Firebase to improve its products and personalise content (including ads) for users.

“Even when consumers follow Google’s own instructions and turn off 'Web & App Activity' tracking on their Privacy Controls, Google nevertheless continues to intercept consumers’ app-usage and app-browsing communications and personal information,” the lawsuit alleged.

Google has not issued a response to this lawsuit.

Last month, the same law firm filed a separate class action lawsuit against Google, claiming that its tracking of users when they browse in private modes (which allow users to browse without saving activity locally) violates user privacy. In private modes, user activity can still be tracked using services like Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and Google Sign-In. The complaint argued that this is almost always done without the user’s knowledge and consent, as Google does not require websites to disclose upfront that Google is tracking users.

In May, the Attorney General of Arizona filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Google, alleging that the company uses “deceptive” practices to track users’ location even after they turn off location tracking. The investigation was initiated following a 2018 Associated Press report, which accused Google of lulling its users into a “false sense of security” with privacy options, which do not fully prevent Google services from storing data, including location data.

Meanwhile, Google has been issued a record fine of €600,000 by the Belgian data protection authority for failing to comply with EU rules on an individual’s “right to be forgotten” online, resulting in harassment of an individual with a public profile. The authority said that the penalty is more than ten times larger than its previous record fine.

Google defended its inaction, stating: “We didn’t believe this case met the European Court of Justice’s criteria for delisting published journalism from search – we thought it was in the public’s interest that this reporting remain searchable.”

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