Google executive discovers “how Apple is eating our lunch”


Executives and engineers working for Google know something that you might not: the company makes it hard for Android users to find the settings that make their location data private. After all, at the end of each day, Google is not mostly a search company; it is an advertising company that gets paid big bucks to hook device users up with the products that other firms pay Google to promote. After all, Google doesn’t pay Apple as much as $12 billion a year to be the iPhone’s default search engine just to be nice.

Google doesn’t want you to find the settings to disable location data on Android

According to Insider, disabling the collection of location data on Android doesn’t always stop Google from amassing this information. Documents related to a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s office in the state of Arizona revealed that Google makes it hard for users to find the settings that turn off location data while also putting pressure on smartphone manufacturers to hide such settings from phone owners. The suit accuses Google of continuing to collect such information from device owners even if they opted out of the collection of such data.

A former Google vice president in charge of Google Maps, Jack Menzel, said during a deposition while under oath that the only way Google would not be able to find out a user’s work and home addresses is if this user deliberately misled Google by giving it incorrect locations on purpose. Sections pertaining to the suit had been redacted and last week a judge ordered that new sections of the court papers be unredacted in response to legal challenges made by trade groups Digital Content Next and News Media Alliance. The latter two groups said that revealing this information was in the public’s best interests and that Google was using its “legal resources” to hide its data collection system from the public.

The newly unredacted part of the document states that Google uses a variety of tools to obtain location data including Wi-Fi and even third party apps that have absolutely nothing to do with Google. In some situations, Google forces users to share data in order to use an app or to connect their device to Wi-Fi.

One Google employee asked, “So there is no way to give a third party app your location and not Google?” The employee added that “This doesn’t sound like something we would want on the front page of the [New York Times].” And when a new build of Android was tested that made it easier to find privacy settings, the company was far from pleased calling it a “problem.”

One employee says that Google wouldn’t want these revelations on the front page of the New York Times

To get around this so-called “problem,” Google buries these settings even deeper within Android. And to make sure that users of non-Pixel handsets also aren’t able to find out how to disable the location settings on their phones, Google persuades the manufacturers of these handsets to hide location settings “through active misrepresentations and/or concealment, suppression, or omission of facts.” In other words, Google lies in order to convince Android phone manufacturers that the location data settings need to be hidden to prevent users from violating manufacturers’ privacy rules.

One Google employee, noting that Android users should be able to find their location using their Android device without sharing this info with Google, appeared to have an epiphany. “This may be how Apple is eating our lunch,” he said, stating that Apple is “much more likely” to allow iPhone users to run location-based apps without having to share the data with Apple.


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