Arizona's top law enforcement official can proceed with a lawsuit accusing Google of misleading the public about location privacy, a state judge has ruled.
The decision, issued by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason, comes in a lawsuit brought earlier this year by state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who alleged that Google engaged in the “widespread and systemic use of deceptive and unfair business practices to obtain information about the location of its users” for ad purposes.
The lawsuit claimed Google violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act, which prohibits companies from deceiving consumers in connection with the sale or advertisement of merchandise.
Brnovich's allegations stemmed from a 2018 Associated Press report that Google stores location data gleaned from some services, including search and maps, even when users have attempted to prevent the data collection.
Soon after the AP's report came out, Google revised a “help” page, which now tells people that turning off Location History doesn't affect other location services, and that some location data may still be saved.
Google argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed at a preliminary stage for several reasons, including that it doesn't sell apps or software to consumers.
"The AG ... alleges Google has deceived consumers through the 'sale' of items such as its apps, operating system and Chrome browser. But those products are not sold to Arizona consumers as the statute requires; they are free," the company wrote in papers filed in July.
Thomason rejected that position for now.
“The deceitful acts here allegedly consist of Google misleading consumers about location data Google collects when Google apps are used and misleading consumers about their ability to 'opt-out' of the information collection process. The complaint does contain adequate allegations that the deceit is employed in connection with the sale or advertising of merchandise,” he wrote in a 12-page order made public earlier this week.
But he added that Brnovich may not be able to prove the case at a trial.
“The facts might ultimately demonstrate that the deceit is far too removed from the sales or advertisements,” he wrote.