Google has agreed to pay $391.5 million in a settlement with 40 US state attorneys general, over its eyebrow-raising location-tracking practices. State officials are calling it a "historic" consumer privacy case.
The search-engine giant was penalized for misleading users that they were no longer being geo-tracked when they disabled location tracking in their Google account settings. In reality, Google was still collecting their location data. As part of the settlement, Google also must clarify and revamp the way it discloses tracking policy and user controls, beginning in 2023.
"For years Google has prioritized profit over their users' privacy," said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who led the case along with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, in a statement. "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."
As part of the settlement, Google is required to:
- Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting on or off;
- Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and
- Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.
Besides Oregon and Nebraska, the states working on the case were: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The settlement is also joined by Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.