Have you ever trudged around the complexity that is the Google Settings menu on your Android phone or while managing your Google account online, and wondering why is it so complex? And have you ever not complained loudly, because well, it was Google, and they must have a reason for doing whatever it is they have done with the settings and options? As it turns out, we lot aren’t the only ones confused by how Google has packaged the privacy options for users to figure their way around. Even Google employees aren’t big fans. This revelation comes as part of a lawsuit that was filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in May this year around Google’s collection of user location data.
Internal documents unsealed in a lawsuit against Google for data collection show that Google employees had raised the issue internally about the complexity. “The current UI feels like it is designed to make things possible, yet difficult enough that people won’t figure it out,” one Google employee said, according to the heavily redacted new set of documents that have been unsealed, reports The Arizona Mirror. “I agree with the article. Location off should mean location off; not except for this case or that case,” says another unnamed Google employee in an internal email released as part of the latest exhibits in this case.
It all started when the Attorney General’s office started investigating Google after the Associated Press published a report in 2018 revealed how Google tracks user location data and how it is difficult for users to understand the options and revoke those permissions. The lawsuit states the data collection process violates the state’s Consumer Fraud Act.
Google has shared a statement on the location data and privacy settings issue. “Privacy controls have long been built into our services and our teams work continuously to discuss and improve them. In the case of location information, we’ve heard feedback, and have worked hard to improve our privacy controls. In fact, even these cherry-picked published extracts state clearly that the team’s goal was to ‘Reduce confusion around Location History Settings’,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement to the Arizona Mirror.
While Google has made changes to its Privacy Controls over time, they are still not as simple as an on and off setting. And within it are layers which users may not immediately notice. For instance, Google will show personalized ads to you and a lot of that personalization happens with the location data it gets. You can turn off ad personalization by simply toggling it off, but that does not mean Google still wouldn’t access your general location and still serve you adverts. It simply is a matter of Google no longer collecting your exact GPS location, but it still knows a larger radius of your location.