Attorneys general in 40 states Monday announced a $391.5 million, multi-state settlement with Google over the company’s location tracking practices. The agreement marks the largest US privacy settlement in history. Authorities allege that Google’s collection of location information violated the participating states’ consumer protection laws because “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.” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said Google has “prioritized profit over their users’ privacy” for years and warned that “companies will continue to compile large amounts of our personal data for marketing purposes with few controls” until government bodies introduce comprehensive privacy laws.
In order to resolve the claims, Google will pay a monetary penalty to be dispursed amongst the 40 states. In an effort to increase transparency, the company will also (1) show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting on or off; (2) make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users; and (3) give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage. In a blog post, Google stated that the settlement “is another step along the path of giving more meaningful choices and minimizing data collection while providing more helpful services.”
This settlement was led by attorneys general in Oregon and Nebraska, assisted by their counterparts in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee and 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.
While the settlement ends the present lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton initiated a new lawsuit against Google last month for allegedly collecting biometric data on millions of Texans without their informed consent.