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Google cannot escape location privacy lawsuit in Arizona, judge rules

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FILE PHOTO: The Google app logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration
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By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) -Allegations that Alphabet Inc's Google deceived users with unclear smartphone location tracking settings should be weighed by a jury, an Arizona judge ruled on Tuesday, refusing to toss out a lawsuit brought by the state's attorney general.

Google had sought summary judgment to get the case against it thrown out at an early stage. It had argued that the state had failed to show that its consumer fraud law could apply and noted that the company's disclosures about privacy settings has been clarified since the case was brought nearly two years ago.

The decision comes a day after attorneys general in Washington state, Indiana, Texas and the District of Columbia sued Google on similar grounds as the Arizona case.

Under Judge Timothy Thomason's ruling in Arizona, the state can proceed with claims that Google may have engaged in deceptive practices in failing to disclose its location tracking capabilities to phone buyers and app users. But he rejected a third argument that Google deceives users by taking location data to help sell ads.

Google in a blog post https://blog.google/outreach-initiatives/public-policy/how-google-puts-you-control-your-location-data on Tuesday applauded the dismissal of what it called the state's central argument.

"We will continue to focus on providing simple, easy-to-understand privacy settings to our users, and will not be distracted from this work by meritless lawsuits that mischaracterize our efforts," the blog said.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich called the ruling a "great win for Arizona consumers."

The action revolves around the fact that users of smartphones running Google's Android operating system who disable a Location History feature to limit tracking still had their location saved to their Google account through another setting, Web App and Activity.

Prosecutors and Google have sparred over whether users realized they needed to disable both settings to keep Google from following their physical movements.

Arizona prosecutors also had sought an early judgment in their favor, but the judge last year rejected its bid.

The Federal Court in Australia in April found in a similar case that Google had misled consumers. Penalties are yet to be determined.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Mark Porter)

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