Google agrees to pay $400m in location tracking settlement

Forty US states have reached an agreement with Google over its location tracking practices. The tech giant was accused of misleading consumers at least since 2014.

Google has agreed to a record $391.5 million multistate settlement, which also requires the company to be more transparent about location tracking and limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information.

“Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information [location data] even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy and a violation of state law,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said.

The attorneys general opened the investigation after a 2018 article by the Associated Press claimed Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.”

The attorneys general concluded that Google had misled consumers about the location tracking practices since at least 2014 and violated state consumer protection laws.

“Specifically, Google misled 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.”

In a separate press release, Google said it would make updates in the coming months to provide transparency over location data. The company will simplify the deletion of such information, create a single information hub “ to help people make informed choices about their data,” and update the account setup with more privacy information.

Chris McLellan, Director of Operations at the non-profit Data Collaboration Alliance, believes that hefty fines don’t change anything since companies can absorb them as any other cost of doing business.

“Fines aren’t the answer. We need to look towards encouraging the use of new technologies, standards, and methodologies that help address the root causes of data chaos in the first place – silos and copies. How data rights and data ownership evolve will determine the winners and losers in our future economy. We are now witnessing a fight to own the future by owning data,” he told Cybernews via email.

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