Google reportedly made it nearly impossible for smartphone users to keep their location data private, according to new un-redacted documents. If that wasn’t concerning enough, Google employees were even confused about it.
According to the documents, which were revealed in relation to an Arizona lawsuit over data collection practices, Google executives and engineers were aware of how difficult it is for smartphone users to keep their location data private.
Fformer vice president of Google Maps, Jack Menzel, went so far as to admit that the only way a user could hide their home and work address from the company was by deliberately setting these locations to random addresses, Insider reports.
Google reportedly made it harder to find popular privacy settings and even pressured phone manufacturers like LG to bury the settings to prevent users from accessing them. Additionally, the documents revealed that Google continued to collect location data from its users even when a number of location-sharing settings were disabled.
According to the documents, Google tested different versions of its Android operating system that made it easier for users to locate and disable the privacy settings. After discovering this, Google made a conscious effort to hide the functions deeper in the settings menu in an effort to deter people from accessing them.
To make matters worse for Google, one employee even pointed out that the practices were sketchy at best.
“So there is no way to give a third party app your location and not Google?” one employee said, according to the documents.
“This doesn’t sound like something we would want on the front page of the [New York Times].”
In concerning news, Jen Chai – a senior product manager whose job was literally to oversee the company’s location services – couldn’t explain how the various privacy settings actually interacted.
Although the lawsuit dates back to May 2020, the documents had been redacted until recently.
Last week, a judge ordered a number of sections in the documents to be un-redacted and released to the public after a joint effort from Digital Content Next and News Media Alliance argued that the information that had been redacted was in the public’s interest.
Ultimately, the judge agreed that information regarding how Google collects data, as well as the fact that the data collection techniques were confusing to its own employees, was something Google customers deserved to know.