While Google was being grilled by members at the antitrust meeting back in July, Sundar Pichai stuck to his guns, claiming that users have the right to decide what data Google does or does not collect, boasting ‘sophisticated controls’ and ease of access. However, it seems like the access isn’t as easy as Mr. Pichai would have you think, as according to Google’s internal documents, even company engineers are confounded by the complexity of these controls.
“The current UI feels like it is designed to make things possible, yet difficult enough that people won’t figure it out,” a google employee said while addressing the privacy controls that Google offers.
This statement was uncovered as a part of a lawsuit that has been levied against the tech giant by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. This was in response to a 2018 Associated Press article which claimed that Google seldom collects location data of its users, even if they pause the “Location History.” Moreover, if you decide to completely turn this setting off, some Google apps store your location data, with a timestamp, anyway.
Moreover, we all know that Google employs user data to show users personalized ads, with location being a big parameter in its findings. Now, even if you turn personalized ads off, Google may still show you ads based on your location. It just does so in a more discreet manner, showing you ads according to a general 3 kilometer area around you, instead of using your exact GPS location.
Now, Google argues that it provides complete control over what data users want to offer up to the company with incredibly nuanced controls. However, this new statement makes it clear that while the company’s users may have this tool, many of them may be unable to wield it.
Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda says that the company is always striving to make its UI more intuitive for its users, adding that “even these cherry picked published extracts state clearly that the team’s goal was to ‘Reduce confusion around Location History Settings’.”
However, it is clear that Google has slipped up when it comes to designing easily understandable controls, and now with error out in the open, we can expect to see some changes in the future. Google has been making improvements in the way it handles user data, and recently announced that users can decide to opt for automatic deletion of their data (location and search history) after a certain interval of time.