Google will pay $391.5M to settle multistate lawsuit over location tracking settings

Google will pay $391.5M to settle multistate lawsuit over location tracking settings

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Google LLC will pay $391.5 million to settle an investigation launched by 40 state attorneys general over the location tracking settings in its services.

The state attorneys general announced the development today. In conjunction, Google detailed that it has agreed to make a series of changes to its location tracking settings as part of the settlement. The changes are set to roll out next year.

The probe that led to today’s $391.5 million settlement was launched following a 2018 Associated Press report about Google’s location data collection practices.

In the years leading up to the report, Google had stated that consumers could disable a setting called Location History to block its services from storing their location data. The Associated Press revealed that users also had to disable a second setting, dubbed Web and App Activity, to block location tracking. The latter setting was enabled by default. 

“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who led the investigation with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson. “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.”

In addition to paying $391.5 million, Google has agreed to update several of its settings pages. Next year, Google will roll out a new privacy control that will make it easier for users to disable the Location History and Web & App Activity settings as well as delete past location data. In parallel, the company will equip several settings pages with new explainers on how it uses location data.

The changes will join a number of related updates that Google has rolled out in recent years. Those updates introduced tools for deleting user data collected by the company, as well as usability improvements intended to help consumers more easily access location settings. 

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google said in a statement today.

The development comes a few months after Google received a $42.7 million fine in Australia over Android’s location data controls. In particular, Australia’s competition regulator issued the penalty over Google’s Location History and Web & App Activity settings, which were also the center of the lawsuit that the search giant settled today. The search giant fixed the issues that led to the penalty in late 2018. 

Photo: Unsplash

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