Alphabet-owned Google has agreed to pay $391.5 million to settle allegations by 40 states that it continued to collect users’ location info while misleading them into thinking they had disabled location tracking.
Led by Oregon and Nebraska, the investigation was first launched in 2018 following a report by The Associated Press which said the company kept tracking location data even though users had turned off ‘’Location History’’ and ‘’Web & App Activity’’ settings.
“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said on Monday. “They have been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they had turned off their location tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers,” she added.
In a blog post, Google said it has already offered more transparency regarding its data collection practices over the last few years, and introduced new tools, such as auto-delete controls, incognito mode on Google Maps and Your Data in Maps and Search, to give users more control over their personal information.
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As part of the settlement, the company has also agreed to provide more information about its location-tracking practices, make it easier for users to disable their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and get their past data removed, and offer more comprehensive explanations of Web & Data Activity to those creating their accounts for the first time.
Last month, Google also paid $85 million to settle a similar case filed by Arizona in 2020. According to documents revealed in the lawsuit, Google continued collecting location data even though users opted out, and asked phone manufacturers such as LG to make it more difficult to find related-settings.
In addition, it’s currently facing another lawsuit from Texas, Indiana, Washington State and the District of Columbia over similar allegations.