Google reportedly made it difficult for users to find privacy settings, documents from an Arizona lawsuit against the giant have revealed. The documents, accessed by Business Insider reveal that the company’s engineers and executives knew how difficult the company had made it for smartphone users to keep their location data private. Google continued collecting location data even when users turned off various location-sharing settings, it made popular privacy settings harder to find, and even pressured LG and other phone makers into hiding settings precisely because “users liked them," according to the documents sourced by Business Insider.
Jack Menzel, a former Google Maps vice president admitted that Google wouldn’t be able to figure out a user’s home and work locations only if that user intentionally threw Google off the trail by setting their work and home addresses as random locations. Further, a Google senior product manager in charge of the location services didn’t know how the company’s complex web of privacy settings interacted with each other.
The lawsuit was filed against Google by Arizona’s attorney general Mark Brnovich office last year. Google was accused of illegally collecting location data from smartphone users even after they opted out.
Further, the report said that unsealed version of the documents painted a more detailed picture of how Google obscured its data collection techniques, which not only confused the users, but also Google’s own employees. A Google employee was quoted in the documents as asking if there was “no way to give a third party app your location and not Google?" adding that it didn’t sound like something the company would want to reveal to the media.
A Google spokesperson, in a response to The Verge, said, “competitors driving this lawsuit have gone out of their way to mischaracterise our services."