Forty US states have reached a settlement with Google for $391.5 million following an investigation into privacy issues surrounding the company’s location-gathering procedures, said the Office of the Attorney General of Michigan, one of the states involved.
In 2018, an Associated Press investigation found that Google collects your location data even when you explicitly shut down location tracking. The investigation found that some apps stored location information without asking for permission. Google Maps was used as an example because it recorded the user’s location when opening the software.
Google responded to the accusations in 2018, saying it clearly explains that the location information will be collected.
“There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services,” a Google spokesperson told the AP. “We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.”
Soon after the investigation hit the internet, the attorneys general opened an investigation, trying to determine if the media giant did anything wrong.
“The attorneys general found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in a press release.
“Specifically, Google caused users to be confused 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.”
The $391.5 million multi-state settlement is not only about the money. Google now has to be more transparent regarding its practices. According to the agreement, Google has to:
· Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”.
· Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden).
· Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used on an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.
· Limit its use and storage of certain types of location information and make account controls more user-friendly.