Google held accountable for excessive location tracking

Google users are outraged over a recent discovery of how much of their data the company actually tracks. On Nov. 14, a group of attorney generals announced a $392 million settlement with 40 states for inaccurate representation of the search engine’s location tracking.

Our tiny phones are capable of containing detailed information related to every aspect of our lives. We are lucky to be able to fit such advanced technology in our pockets, creating easy access to an almost infinite amount of data. There are quite a few downsides to this, though.

Applications and websites can gain information about our movements and interests to help advertisers market products. They collect data and sell it to other companies, regardless of the content or context. Some, like Google, store the location history of their consumers.

According to CNN Business, “Deceptive practices [were used] to track users’ physical location even when those users have made efforts to block Google from doing so.”

This is Google’s second lawsuit regarding user information. Imagine the amount of information taken and stored from thousands of companies operating online. Google will most certainly not be the last to face scrutiny over location data collection.

The business aspect of collecting data is understandable. It is a model built for the sake of improving user experience by learning and tracking their behavior. However, such information could become dangerous and be used against consumers.

In light of recent events involving Roe v. Wade being overturned, the data could be used against people seeking abortions, especially in states that have made it illegal. With organizations targeting individuals who have received abortions, the release of location information from Google could be catastrophic. It has the potential to ruin many lives. 

Stricter policies must be set in place for location tracking. It is often brushed aside within the greater scheme of issues, but if ignored, it could snowball out of control. Worldwide companies have developed a monopoly over user information and could easily track the smallest details of someone’s life. 

People should not have to worry or fear for their privacy or ability to live their lives. Regulations need to be enacted. Women, BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ community are finding themselves in jeopardy around the country. It is in these moments they need us most. A stable foundation must be set to ensure their safety, and the first step is tightening policies surrounding location tracking.

Fortunately, members of Congress have begun taking action. California House Rep. Sara Jacobs introduced the “My Body, My Data Act” on June 2. According to her campaign page, “The bill would create a new national standard to protect personal reproductive health data, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. By minimizing the personal reproductive health data that is collected and retained, the bill would prevent this information from being disclosed or misused.”

Corporate greed must be stopped. Consumer privacy needs higher priority, and the time is now. We must join together to support acts like Jacobs’ to ensure our safety from organizations with malicious intent.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.