According to court documents, Google buried location settings so people wouldn't disable them. According to newly released documents, Google also put pressure on other Android manufacturers to make the settings less visible.
As per the documents, the decision was made after Google conducted research that discovered a "substantial increase" in devices that disabled the settings when presented with easily accessible options. The search giant saw the change as a "problem," and pressed other Android phone manufacturers to do the same.
The documents are part of a consumer fraud case filed against Google by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich last year. The Arizona Mirror was the first to report on the unsealed documents.
"At the bottom, Google's efforts were intended to deemphasize the prominence of location settings because Google's own research showed that users are more likely to disable location settings when presented with a clear option to do so," an unclassified section from the lawsuit says. "Google tried to convince these carriers and manufacturers to conceal the location settings — or make them less prominent — through active misrepresentations and/or concealment, suppression, or omission of facts available to Google concerning user experience in order to assuage their privacy concerns."
The lawsuit was filed in reaction to an Associated Press investigation in 2018 that looked into Google's location data practices on phones running Android, the company's mobile operating system. According to the news outlet, Google still monitors people's exact location even if they disable a setting called Location History.
A large bulk of Google's revenue comes from its huge marketing operations, which is bolstered by personal information collected when people use its products.
However, users were "lulled into a false sense of security" because Google misled them into believing they had disabled location data gathering settings when they were still turned on.