Report: Even Google Engineers Are Confused by Platform’s Privacy Settings

Google doesn’t seem to understand privacy. Perhaps its employees need to Google it.

A recent lawsuit against Google included emails from employees claiming that the company’s privacy settings are so complicated, even its own engineers don’t fully understand them.

The consumer fraud suit, filed by the state of Arizona in May against Google, alleged that the tech giant has used “deceptive and unfair business practices to obtain information about the location of its users … .” 

“Many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.” This report found that “even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. (It’s possible, although laborious, to delete it,)” the Associated Press (AP) found in August of 2018. 

The initial lawsuit was heavily redacted, according to the Arizona Mirror, but after a petition filed on August 3 by Digital Content Next, a trade association that represents digital content companies, a judge reportedly agreed to unseal more of the documents.

The new version of the lawsuit revealed a number of communications between Google employees after the AP article was published. “Indeed we aren’t very good at explaining this to users. Add me to the list of Googlers who didn’t understand how this worked an [sic] was surprised when I read the article . . . we shipped a UI that confuses users,” admitted one employee, according to Ars Technica. “I agree with the article. Location off should mean location off, not except for this case or that case,” claimed another. 

Following the release of the AP report, Google “turned into crisis mode and held a self-styled ‘Oh Shit’ meeting in reaction to the story,” according to the suit. The company began to track media coverage of the story, finding that by the second day after the AP report broke, the story “was no longer on the list of top 10 trending stories across tech.”

A person should not need an advanced programing degree in order to simply avoid the watchful eye of Google, but this is not the first time that big tech companies tracked users without permission. Apple snuck COVID-19 contact tracing into a recent update, and Google launched similar contact tracing tech in April.  …. 

Conservatives are under attack. Contact Google at 1-650-253-0000 and demand that the platform provide transparency: Companies need to design open systems so that they can be held accountable, while giving weight to privacy concerns. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.

 

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