Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states over allegations that the company tracked users’ locations without their knowledge (via The New York Times). As part of the settlement, Google’s required to alert users when location tracking’s enabled, as well as provide information on how to turn off the feature starting in 2023.
A coalition of attorneys general from Oregon, New York, Florida, Nebraska, and other states opened the investigation in response to a 2018 report from the Associated Press that reveals how Google silently tracked users’ locations across its various services on iPhone and Android. It alleges that from 2014 to 2019, Google misled users into thinking their location had been switched off and would then use that information to sell personalized ads.
In a blog post published Monday, Google says the investigation is based on “outdated product policies” that the company has already addressed. It’s still going to roll out some new features, though, including a single information hub that “highlights key location settings to help people make informed choices about their data.” Google will also start providing more “detailed” information about the data it collects tracking during the account setup process and is launching a new toggle to turn off and delete your location history and web and app activity “in one simple flow.”
This settlement comes just one month after Google paid $85 million to the state of Arizona over allegations it tricked users into believing they had turned location tracking off on Android phones and apps. It’s also facing a lawsuit from Washington, DC, Texas, Indiana, and Washington state that makes similar claims about Google’s old location tracking practices.
“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. “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.”