For years, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been taking the offense against Big Tech companies. Google has been at the top of Paxton’s list as a leading actor in Big Tech’s manipulation, violation of privacy, and deception.
Now, Paxton has announced he will be suing Google once again.
“The lawsuit alleges that Google, in yet another violation of Texans’ privacy, has collected millions of biometric identifiers, including voiceprints and records of face geometry, from Texans through its products and services like Google Photos, Google Assistant, and Nest Hub Max,” a statement from Paxton’s office explained.
Google has been creating a database full of Texans’ biometric identities. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt warned against facial-recognition technology because it risked “crossing the creepy line” and even went so far as assuring the world that Google “would not build a database capable of recognizing individual faces.”
However, when Schmidt was replaced as CEO, Google dropped that perspective and pushed facial-recognition technology and the resulting databases.
Hundreds of thousands of Google product users in Texas have fallen victim to Google’s schemes as they steal and store biometric identification information for undisclosed amounts of times. In fact, Google not only capture the faces and voices of users, but they also have access to additional victims through pictures or videos of uninvolved bystanders taken either intentionally or unintentionally by Google users.
“Indeed, Google goes to extraordinary—and disturbing—efforts to enhance its ‘data,’” the lawsuit explains.
They then exploit this private, sensitive information that they’ve collected and use it for their own commercial purposes to gain profit, despite it being a violation of the state’s Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act.
“Google’s indiscriminate collection of the personal information of Texans, including very sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated,” Paxton said. “I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and security of all Texans.”
This is not the first lawsuit Paxton has filed against Google.
Earlier this year, Paxton took Google head on in a lawsuit for “misleading endorsements.” He explained that Google LLC was “engaging in false and misleading practices in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices–Consumer Protection Act.”
Paxton said Google knew that the Pixel 4 was not yet on the market and required radio personalities and DJs to provide dishonest testimonials about the product.
iHeartMedia employees expressed concern over the misleading nature of the script and sought to either drop the script or have Google provide them with sample products so they could present honest advertisements.
Despite iHeartMedia employees’ push for honesty, Google refused and insisted the DJs record and broadcast lies about the product using Google’s deceptive script.
“They [Big Tech companies] are not above the law, and I will make sure they are held accountable for their misleading business practices,” Paxton said. “Google will not continue manipulating Texas consumers.”
That lawsuit was just the beginning of a long war on Google waged by Paxton.
“Google has become one of the richest companies in the world, in part, by deceiving Texans and profiting off their confusion. Specifically, Google has systematically misled, deceived, and withheld material facts from users in Texas about how their location is tracked and used and how to stop Google from monetizing their movement,” said Paxton.
Paxton explained that Texas consumers have been led to believe that once they turn off “location” feature, the company will honor that. However, it has come to light that the company continues to track users despite their choice to disable the location feature.
Google discloses steps to turn off one of the location features in the site’s settings, claiming this will prevent users’ location from being stored; however, they fail to disclose that they will still track users through other settings and methods.
Deriving most of its revenue from advertising, Google finds it imperative to track users’ location and information to efficiently rake in revenue.
“Under this model, every Texan Google user is a potential unwitting profit center,” the lawsuit explains.
Paxton’s goal in filing the lawsuit was to “hold Google accountable for misleading and deceiving Texans.”
“This is not only an unethical invasion of privacy—it’s against the law,” said Paxton.
Paxton later amended the lawsuit to include “Incognito mode” as another Deceptive Trade Practices Act violation. Google claims the “Incognito Mode” allows users’ histories and locations to remain completely untracked and untraceable.
The amendment explains that “Google also misleads users to believe that they have meaningful control over whether Google collects personal information during private-browsing sessions and what information is collected.”
Google has claimed their private browser is completely private and protected; but in reality, “Incognito Mode” is no different than the regular Google Chrome browser. Google continues to track location and holds a history of data collected from Texan users despite their use of the “private” browser.
“Critically, Google omits from Incognito disclosure that it still collects a user’s personal information even when the user has taken Google at its word and affirmatively elected to enable Incognito mode,” said Paxton in the amendment.