Technology

Arizona investigating Google's location tracking: report

Arizona reportedly launched an investigation into Google's location data collection practices.

The company could face a hefty fine depending on how the state's attorney general rules on the case over Google's extensive location tracking.

The probe was started by Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich and is not yet public, but was reported by the Washington Post.

Arizona is acting alone at the moment but the investigation could encourage other states and even the federal government to take similar actions of their own on the matter.

Brnovich had previously signaled his interest in the investigation in a public filing on Aug. 21 saying the attorney general's office had retained a law firm to "help probe an unnamed tech company and its "storage of consumer location data, tracking of consumer location, and other consumer tracking through ... smartphone operating systems, even when consumers turn off 'location services' and take other steps to stop such tracking."

The probe was likely prompted by an Associated Press investigation that found many Google devices and apps tracked users even when they had location tracking turned off. The AP verified its findings with Princeton University researchers.  

Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for the Arizona attorney general, told the Washington Post there have been "recent bombshell reports depicting how the tech industry handles consumer data and what companies are doing with that information," including the AP story, which he said "highlighted Google's apparent tracking of consumer movement even if you opt out of such services."

Anderson did not confirm the state's investigation though.

Google initially defended its practices saying that users needed to take a separate step to fully turn off the tracking, but then said it has "been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers."

Brnovich has come after other technology companies on data as well. In March, he criticized Facebook over its Cambridge Analytica Scandal in which the user data of 87 million Facebook users were improperly harvested.

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