Google wanted your location data so bad, it buried the controls in Settings

by Jeremy


It is no secret how much Google loves collecting user data, most of which goes in the direction of its massive ad business that brings in billions of dollars each year. Just last year, Google’s ad business reported $147 billion in revenue. So, it is only natural that if users were given a chance to disable these tracking activities, Google’s ad revenue will get hurt. The solution? Google made it harder for users of Android phones to find these location settings that enable tracking.

The new findings come courtesy of freshly unredacted lawsuit material that has now been made public. Filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in response to an AP New investigation into Google’s location tracking practices, the documents reveal that Google pressured OEMs into obeying its wish, and even succeeded at convincing LG to do so.

“At bottom, Google’s efforts were intended to deemphasize the prominence of location settings because Google’s own research showed that users are more likely to disable location settings when presented with a clear option to do so.
Google tried to convince these carriers and manufacturers to conceal the location settings — or make them less prominent — through active misrepresentations and/or concealment, suppression, or omission of facts available to Google concerning user experience in order to assuage their privacy concerns.”

In fact, the only way for users to avoid this aggressive location tracking was by misleading Google services with wrong address details. “Jack Menzel, a former vice president overseeing Google Maps, 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,” says a BusinessInsider report.

As part of the investigation, it was reported that even when users disabled the Location History option, some of Google’s apps stored time-stamped location data without informing users. That happened, despite Google claiming that ‘the places you go are no longer stored’ once Location History was turned off.

In fact, Google’s own employees were confused about the direction Google was taking, and also concerned that Apple will take the cake here by letting users opt-out of location tracking easily. Heck, even a Google employee is quoted saying that he used a heavily modified version of Android called LineageOS to make his device ‘G-Free’likely free from Google services – to avoid surveillance.

So, why did Google take the decision of burying the location tracking controls within the Settings? It appears that Google conducted research and discovered that users turned off location services when given a chance, and this made Google Search less effective on those devices.

And since Search is at the core of Google’s ad services, it would directly impact the ad revenue. The unredacted documents also reveal that even some of Google’s senior executives didn’t have a complete idea as to how the company’s location tracking systems worked in Android.


Nadeem Sarwar

I’ve been writing about consumer technology for over three years now, having worked with names such as NDTV and Beebom in the past. Aside from covering the latest news, I’ve reviewed my fair share of devices ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart home devices. I also have interviewed tech execs and appeared as a host in YouTube videos talking about the latest and greatest gadgets out there.





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