Google will pay a historic $391.5 million in settlement to 40 states in the US over allegations that the tech giant tracked users location data without their consent in the country. Last month, Google paid $85 million to the state of Arizona to settle the claims that the tech giant illegally tracked the location of Android users. The new settlement with Google over its location tracking practices, led by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Nebraska AG Doug Peterson, is the largest attorney general-led consumer privacy settlement ever.
Because of Oregon's leadership role in the bipartisan investigation and settlement, Oregon will receive $14,800,563. "For years Google has prioritized profit over their users' privacy," said Attorney General Rosenblum. "They have been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they had turned off their location tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers," he said in a statement late on Monday. As outlined in the settlement, Google misled its users into thinking they had turned off location tracking in their account settings, when, in fact, Google continued to collect their location information.
In addition to the multimillion-dollar settlement, as part of the negotiations with the AGs, Google has agreed to significantly improve its location tracking disclosures and user controls starting in 2023. According to the Oregon Department of Justice, location data is a key part of Google's digital advertising business. Google uses the personal and behavioural data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target ads. In fact, location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects. Even a limited amount of location data can expose a person's identity and routines and can be used to infer personal details.
The attorneys general found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location-tracking practices since at least 2014. Specifically, Google confused its users about the extent to which they could limit Google's location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings. In a blog post, Google said the lawsuit is based on "outdated product policies" that the company has already addressed. Google said it will also start providing more "detailed" information about the data it collects tracking during the account setup process and is launching a new toggle to turn off and delete your location history and web and app activity "in one simple flow.