State AGs Sue Google Over Location Data for Targeted Ads

Google's HQ
(Image credit: The Pancake of Heaven! - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

A bipartisan quartet of state attorneys general -- from Texas, Indiana and both Washingtons (the state and the District of Columbia) -- are suing Google over location data privacy and its use in targeted advertising.

The AGs argue that Google misled consumers by tracking their locations even when they believed they had disabled that feature, then using the data for targeted ads, to the "enormous" enrichment of the online platform.

"Google provides a setting called 'Location History' and tells users that, if they turn it off, 'the places you go are no longer stored," said the Texas AG's office. "In spite of this assurance, Google continues to track users’ location through other settings and methods that it fails to adequately disclose."

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who has been on Google's case about alleged misuse of location data since at least 2017, including asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, signaled it was about time.

“The stunning allegations in this bipartisan suit by four attorneys general show, yet again, that tech companies continue to mislead, deceive, and prioritize profits over protecting user privacy," he said. "I’ve long raised alarm over Google’s location data deceptions and Big Tech’s lies must stop. Congress must urgently meet this moment in the privacy crisis by passing a comprehensive law that provides the privacy protections that Americans need and deserve.”

According to a copy of the Texas suit, the AG's are telling the courts that Google "has systematically misled, deceived, and withheld material facts from users in Texas about how their location is tracked and used and how to stop Google from monetizing their movements. More to the point, while many Texans may reasonably believe they have disabled the tracking of their location, the reality is that Google has
been hard at work behind the scenes logging their movements in a data store Google calls “Footprints.” But while footprints generally fade, Google ensures that the location information it stores about Texans is not so easily erased." ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.