Google Settles Location-Tracking Case For $391.5 Million

Google agrees to pay $391.5 million in a settlement with 40 states over a lawsuit involving the search engine company’s tracking of users’ locations. The result of work by a coalition of state attorneys general, this is the largest-ever attorney general-led consumer privacy settlement.

A 2018 story by the Associated Press initiated the lawsuit. It alleged that Google continued collecting personal and behavioral location data and selling it to advertisers, even after users had opted out of location history in their settings.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says in a press release:

“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy. 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.”

Under the terms of today’s settlement, Google will provide a detailed rundown of the data it routinely collects and present this information on a webpage that the public can access.

Google Commits To Changing Location Data Policies

In a blog post, the Mountain View, California-based tech company outlines several changes it will implement in response to the settlement.

The changes include:

  • Consolidating user information hubs into a single, comprehensive repository
  • Additional disclosures
  • Simplifying the deletion of location data
  • Providing new accounts with a more detailed explanation of Web & App Activity, including what information it includes and how Google uses it

Google’s blog post states:

“Today’s settlement is another step along the path of giving more meaningful choices and minimizing data collection while providing more helpful services.”

The blog post also highlights the benefits that location information provides users, including factoring traffic conditions into Google Maps’ driving directions, restaurant business, and connected experience across Google properties.

With these updates, Google is strengthening its commitment to creating more transparency around user privacy and data collection policies. This includes auto-delete controls, Incognito mode for Google Maps and increased transparency about how the search engine uses location data.

Location Data Is An Important Part of Google’s Ad Business

Google’s digital advertising relies heavily on location data to gather personal and behavioral data marketers use to create detailed consumer profiles. In turn, advertisers use the data to create targeted campaigns speaking to a specific demographic.

Personalized advertising generated more than $209 billion in ad revenue in 2021 for Aphabet, Inc., Google’s parent company.

Featured Image: Burdun Iliya/Shutterstock

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