NEWS16 November 2022

Google settles US privacy case for $391.5m

Mobile News North America Privacy Technology

US – Google has agreed a $391.5m settlement with 40 US states over its location tracking practices.

Google HQ

The agreement follows a five-year investigation into Google’s location tracking services following a media report in Associated Press that claimed Google was recording people’s movements even when they had told it not to.

The article said that Location History was set to ‘off’ unless a user turned on the setting, but in Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, it was automatically turned ‘on’ when users set up a Google account, including all Android phone users.

Google uses personal and behavioural data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target advertisements on behalf of its advertising customers.

In the settlement, the states found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices in various ways since at least 2014.

Specifically, the attorneys general found Google confused users about “the scope of the Location History setting, the fact that the Web & App Activity setting existed and also collected location information, and the extent to which consumers who use Google products and services could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings”.

As part of the settlement, Google agreed to show additional information to users whenever they turn an account setting ‘on’ or ‘off’, make key information about location tracking “unavoidable” for users, and create a Location Technologies web page to provide information on the types of location data Google collects.

The settlement also puts limits on Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires Google account controls to be more user-friendly.

The executive committee of the multi-state investigation included Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Tennessee, and Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement negotiations.

The final settlement was 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.

Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro said: “Right now, consumers are beholden to Google’s promise that big tech knows what’s best for users’ data.

“Google’s impact on the lives of everyday Americans is pervasive – they have a responsibility to consumers to ensure that the data they collect is only obtained with express consent from the user.”