According to a group of attorneys general, Google has reached a historic $391.5 million settlement with 40 states for allegedly deceiving customers about its location monitoring methods.
It was the largest multi-state privacy settlement in US history, according to the attorneys general.
Attorneys general from New York, Kentucky, and Oregon joined a group that asserted Google had been deceiving consumers about tracking location in a number of ways since 2014. Josh Shapiro, the candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, said in a statement that there was uncertainty regarding “the scope of the Location History setting” 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.”
As part of the settlement, Google is obligated to be more open with users. This includes providing users with more information on the types of location data being collected and their uses, as well as anytime a location-related setting is turned on or off. Additionally, Google will now be subject to limitations on the amount of location data it can use and store.
According to current advancements, “Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” said José Castaeda, a Google official, to CNN Business.
After learning that Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to,” according to a 2018 Associated Press story, the attorneys general launched an investigation. At that time, Google issued a statement in which it stated that it offered “clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.”
Four state attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Texas, Indiana, and Washington state filed a similar lawsuit against the search engine in January, alleging that it had used “dark patterns” and dishonest methods to track users’ physical locations even when those users had taken steps to prevent Google from doing so.
Advertising can be targeted and internet users’ profiles can be created using location data, such as the kind collected by Google. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Google and other big digital firms have been under increased scrutiny for how they handle location data. Following pressure from legislators concerned about how such information could be used to follow people seeking abortions, Google announced it would begin wiping user location history for trips to places like fertility clinics and abortion clinics, among other places.
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