Google has agreed to settle a dispute over location monitoring by paying 40 US states $391.5 million. The major IT corporation mislead its customers into thinking that location tracking was disabled. Google did not stop gathering the users’ location data, though.
Google also consented to considerably enhance its location tracking disclosures and user controls beginning in 2023 as part of the settlement (PDF).
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon issued the following statement:
“For years, Google has placed business interests ahead of the privacy of its consumers.
They have been cunning and dishonest. Although customers believed they had disabled Google’s location tracking tools, the corporation continued to covertly track their whereabouts and exploit that information for advertisements.
Companies will continue to gather a lot of our personal information for marketing purposes with few safeguards until we have robust privacy laws.
The primary source of income for Google is advertising. For this reason, it builds a thorough user profile using personal and behavioural information gathered through location monitoring and other sources. Every person who makes use of a Google service has a user profile created, and the corporation then displays relevant adverts to them.
The agreement, which is the largest consumer privacy settlement in US history, was negotiated by the attorneys general of Oregon, Rosenblum, and Nebraska, Peterson.
A 2018 story by the Associated Press (AP) that described how Google “tracks your travels” served as the impetus for the DoJ probe. At the time, the AP reported that this problem affected more than 2 billion Android-powered devices as well as hundreds of millions of iPhones with Google Maps or Google Search installed.
Google refrained from acknowledging breaking any rules. The probe was based on “outdated product policies that we revised years ago,” a Google official told The Register.
Google has also published a blog that offers people further details on how to manage their location data.