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U.S., European Consumer Groups Call on FTC to Investigate Google for Deceptively Tracking Android Phone Users

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 09:52

Charge Users are Unfairly Manipulated into Enabling Location History


An association of more than 75 consumer groups on both sides of the Atlantic is asking the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google for unfairly and deceptively manipulating users of mobile phones with the Android operating system into being constantly location-tracked.

In a letter to the FTC the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) charged: “Google is removing individuals’ control over their data by deceit.”

Read the TACD letter here.

“Location data and history can reveal in detail an individual’s lifestyle, daily routines and interests,” the TACD letter said. “Over time the data can be used to infer highly sensitive information such as religious beliefs, political views and sexual orientation.”

The TACD complaint is based on a just released research report, “Every Step You Take” from the Norwegian Consumer Council. In addition to the TACD complaint to the FTC, European consumer groups are filing complaints with their respective data protection authorities charging that Google has violated to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Read the “Every Step You Take” reporthere:  https://www.forbrukerradet.no/undersokelse/no-undersokelsekategori/every-step-you-take

NCC’s report shows Android users are being manipulated into enabling Location History and Web & App activity settings, including through:

  • Deceptive click-flow. The click-flow when setting up an Android device pushes users into enabling “Location History” without being aware of it.
  • Hidden default settings. When setting up a Google account, the Web & App activity settings are hidden behind extra clicks and enabled by default.
  • Misleading and unbalanced information. Users are not given sufficient information when presented with choices and are misled about what data is collected and how it is used.
  • Repeated nudging. Users are repeatedly asked to turn on “Location History” when using different Google services.
  • Lack of individual service choice. Google bundles all features and turns on invasive location tracking even if a user wants just one feature with location, e.g. photos sorted that way.

The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) is a forum of US and EU consumer organizations which develops and agrees on joint consumer policy recommendations to the US government and European Union to promote the consumer interest in EU and US policy making. Visit the organization’s website here:  http://tacd.org/