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Google purposely made it harder for smartphone users to keep their location private, new documents allege

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<p>Germany Google Competition Probe</p> (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Germany Google Competition Probe

(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Google executive and engineers were aware that the company made it harder for smartphone users to keep location information private, according to newly released, unredacted documents.

The files relate to a court case between the state of Arizona and the search, with Attorney General Mark Brnovich putting the suit forward in May 2020.

The documents reveal that Google appeared continue collecting location data even when users turned off location-sharing settings, and allegedly pressured smartphone manufacturers like LG to hide particular settings, Insider reports. LG did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent before time of publication.

Google collected location data using wi-fi and third-party apps unaffiliated with Google, the documents suggest. "So there is no way to give a third party app your location and not Google?" one employee said, according to the documents, adding: "This doesn't sound like something we would want on the front page of the [New York Times]."

In 2017, it was reported that Google could track you even if you turned off location services, stopped using apps, and removed your SIM card because Android devices with a cellular or Wi-Fi connection collect the data of nearby cell towers, thereby providing the company with an estimation of the users’ location.

One year later, an investigation found that Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app, and automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are.

Google also apparently tested versions of its Android operating system that would make privacy settings easier to find, but Google regarded people using them as a “problem” and intended to bury them deeper in its settings menus.

"This may be how Apple is eating our lunch," one employee is reported to have said, noting that Apple was "much more likely" to let people use location-based apps and services without sharing the data with Apple itself.

Google did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent before time of publication, but told The Verge that the lawsuit ““and our competitors driving this lawsuit have gone out of their way to mischaracterize our services. We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight."

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