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Judge rules that Google fraud lawsuit documents should be public

By: - August 7, 2020 8:10 am
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Don’t be evil?

A Maricopa County judge ruled Thursday that records relating to allegations that Google violated Arizona’s consumer fraud statutes should be unsealed, marking a victory for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

In May, Brnovich filed a heavily redacted lawsuit alleging that Google’s data-collection processes had violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act

“The Court finds and concludes that the determination of what documents and information should be sealed should proceed forthwith,” Judge Timothy J. Thomason said in his ruling. Google had sought to block the documents filed in the lawsuit from becoming public. 

“Today’s ruling won’t provide for the immediate release of any new records, but sets a process in motion for a potential disclosure further down the road,” AG spokesman Ryan Anderson told Arizona Mirror. “We welcome the decision today by Judge Thomason and believe this is a crucial step in ensuring an open government and an informed citizenry.”

The Attorney General’s Office began investigating Google after an Associated Press article in 2018 revealed certain ways the company tracks users movements and the difficulties of removing those tracking permissions. 

The redactions in the lawsuit are testimony from Google employees, as well as internal documents obtained by the AG’s nearly two-year investigation, Anderson previously told the Mirror

Google contended that the information was confidential and so it was redacted in the filing, though Anderson said the AG’s office plans to make as much of it public as possible. 

“The Attorney General appears to have mischaracterized our services,” Google spokesperson Jose Castañeda said in a statement to the Mirror. “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight.” 

Castañeda did not respond to questions about whether Google will appeal the decision to unseal the documents. 

This isn’t the only fight against the behemoth tech company the AG’s office is involved in, either. 

Last year the AG entered into an antitrust investigation of Google with 48 other states, and now the U.S. Department of Justice is allegedly drafting a federal antitrust lawsuit to go after the company that could begin sometime this summer. 

“The ball is now in Google’s court to justify why these documents should be kept private and not accessible to the public,” Brnovich said on Twitter about the ruling. 

There are 270 exhibits which have been filed with the case under seal.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.