Editorial – Seattle Times: Google doesn’t need your location data | Opinion

This editorial was written by the editorial board of the Seattle Times.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. For most of us, not a day goes by without interacting with one of their products or services. In 2022, whether we like it or not, Big Tech is part of our lives.

With this increasing dominance, it is up to the government to remain vigilant against these companies abusing their power.

A good example of this watchdog role are the recent lawsuits filed by four state attorneys general, including Washington AG Bob Ferguson, against Google for violating user privacy.

The bipartisan group – which also includes the District of Columbia, Indiana and Texas – alleges that Google employs deceptive practices, making it “almost impossible” for users to avoid sharing their location data.

The tech giant uses this information to target ads, depriving consumers of choice, and to track sensitive location data to make a profit, Ferguson said in a statement.

“Google continued to track individuals’ location data even after consumers told the company to stop,” he said. “It’s not just dishonest, it’s illegal.”

The company promised users that if they turned off location history, any location they visited would no longer be stored, but according to the lawsuit, even when consumers chose not to track location through this setting, Google recorded their whereabouts by other means.

This discrepancy was first noted in 2018 by The Associated Press, which found that while Google is generally open to asking permission to use location information, some Google apps automatically store timestamped location data. without asking.

The AP discovered that the location was used by weather updates on Android phones or stored by simply opening the Google Maps app. Even some non-location related searches, such as “chocolate chip cookies”, would identify the precise latitude and longitude of the user.

It’s a total disregard for privacy – and a violation of Washington State Consumer Law – all so that Google can sell you Chips Ahoy.

This isn’t the first lawsuit against Google that Washington has been a part of, and Google wasn’t the only target. Big Tech now faces a host of legal challenges from bipartisan coalitions of state attorneys general, as well as increased scrutiny from the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. It was time.

For too long, little or no regulation has been the default setting for the development and growth of the Internet. This has allowed innovation to flourish through the rise and fall of tech players big and small, but the current unchallenged dominance of a few companies – and their monopolistic power to stifle competition – shows that it is not. is no longer the case.

Litigation is an important part of controlling the worst impulses of these companies, but strong action by regulators, as well as congressional legislation, is also needed. Big Tech can – and does – play a positive role in our lives, but we need to be able to dictate the terms for the good of all.

(c)2022 The Seattle Times Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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