In a settlement over Google’s location tracking practices, Google will have to pay close to $400 million to over 40 states. This is part of a $2.6 billion settlement to settle the matter as announced on Monday.
Attorney General Rosenblum led an investigation into the multinational technology company that has its headquarters in Mountain View, California, along with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson. According to the Oregon Attorney General’s office, this is the largest consumer privacy settlement ever brought by an attorney general.
In 2018, Rosenblum and other attorneys general started a bipartisan investigation into the company’s practices based on an article published by the Associated Press. They found that Google had created confusing settings for consumers since at least 2014, and had been violating state consumer protection laws as a result.
Rosenblum’s office explained how the public was misled. According to the settlement agreement, Google misled its users into believing that they had turned off location tracking in their account settings. In fact, Google continued to collect their location information as indicated in the settlement. Further, in conjunction with the multimillion-dollar settlement, Google has agreed in the negotiations with the AGs to improve its user controls and disclosures about location tracking by 2023.
To make sure users receive targeted advertisements, Google uses location data, as well as other types of personal information. In the view of Rosenblum’s office, users’ location data is among the most sensitive pieces of information that are collected by the company. This is because it is part of its attempt to create detailed profiles of them which can further be used in order to completely reveal the identity and routines of a person.
In Rosenblum’s view, “Google has prioritized profit over the privacy of its users for years. There has been a lot of deception and craftiness on their part. The company has been secretly recording the movements of consumers throughout the day and using that information for advertising purposes in spite of the fact that they thought they had turned off location tracking on Google.”
Besides paying $391.5 million, Google has also been ordered to make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (not hidden). Google is now required to give users detailed information on a page titled “Location Technologies” about the types of location data it collects and how it is used.
In addition to Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, there were many other states that were part of the settlement.
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