Google to pay $392 million to 40 states in location-tracking settlement

Google has agreed to pay $391.5 million to 40 U.S. states to settle a dispute over location tracking.

The tech giant misled its users into believing they’d turned off location tracking of their account settings, when Google actually continued to gather their location information, the Oregon Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a post on its website on Monday, November 14.

As a part of the settlement, Google also agreed to “significantly improve” its location tracking disclosures and user controls, starting in 2023.

Google uses the non-public and behavioral data it collects via location tracking and other methods to create an in depth user profile, a practice that allows the corporate to serve up lucrative targeted ads to devices.

The investigation that led to this week’s settlement was prompted by a 2018 Associated Press (AP) article that exposed that Google “records your movements even if you explicitly tell it to not.”

The AP said on the time that the problem impacted around 2 billion devices running Google’s Android mobile operating system and tons of of thousands and thousands iPhones using Google Maps or the corporate’s Search site.

Its report checked out Google’s Location History and Web & App Activity settings, and located that while Location History is turned off by default and wishes a user to manually activate it, Web & App Activity was routinely switched on when users arrange a Google account.

The states’ investigation concluded that since 2014, Google broke state consumer protection laws by misleading users about its location-tracking system.

“Specifically, Google confused its users concerning the extent to which they may limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings,” Oregon’s DoJ said.

Besides the payout, the settlement requires Google to be clearer about its privacy practices by, for instance, making it more obvious to users once they turn a location-related setting on or off. The corporate has also been told to offer users with detailed information regarding the form of location data Google is pulling in, and in addition the way it’s used, by clearly laying it out on a “Location Technologies” webpage.

“For years, Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum commented in response to the settlement. “They’ve been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they’d turned off their location-tracking features on Google, but the corporate continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers.”

Rosenblum added: “Until we’ve got comprehensive privacy laws, corporations will proceed to compile large amounts of our personal data for marketing purposes with few controls.”

Digital Trends has reached out to Google for a response to the settlement and we’ll update this text once we hear back.

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