Google announced Thursday that it had taken legal action against a company selling location data to Android users.
SafeGraph was a company that sold data sets to customers. It obtained these data sets by having software developers embed SafeGraph code in their applications. One of the company’s clients was the US Centers for Disease Control, which gathered data as part of its response effort to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an investigation by Motherboard.
Google stated that it sent a warning to SafeGraph apps in June. Apps were warned to delete the code that SafeGraph used, or face sanctions on the Google Play marketplace.
This news comes after lawmakers have criticised big tech companies for accessing user data. Along with other senators, Sen. Ron Wyden (a Democrat from Oregon) introduced a bill that would require law enforcement officials to obtain a court order prior to obtaining personal data from third-party brokers.
Google’s handling of location data in its own apps has been criticized by others. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Google last year. The lawsuit was filed in response to a 2018 investigation by the Associated Press, which scrutinized Google’s location data practices on phones running Android, the company’s mobile operating system. According to the news outlet, Google tracks whereabouts of people even when they disable a Location History setting.
The report stated that even though this setting is disabled, it will still track where users travel, but the app won’t keep track of the locations they’ve visited in their Google Maps timelines. However, users can pause location tracking by disabling another setting called Web and Applications Activity.