Hartford — Google has agreed to a $391.5 million settlement with 40 U.S. states in an investigation into how the company tracked user locations, attorneys general announced Monday. States, calling it the largest privacy settlement in US history.
The states-led investigation, which officials say was prompted by an Associated Press (AP) article in 2018, found that Google continued to harvest people’s location data even after they be disengaged from this follow-up.
“This US$391.5 million settlement is a historic victory for consumers in an era of growing reliance on technology. Location data is some of the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement. .
The AP reported that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store location data even if the user has enabled a privacy setting that prevents Google from doing so. Computer scientists from Princeton confirmed these findings at the request of AP.
Storing this data carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects.
The AP reported in 2018 that the location tracking privacy issue affected some two billion users of devices running Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of iPhone users worldwide. people who rely on Google for maps or search.
Attorneys general investigating Google said a key part of the company’s digital advertising business is location data, which they called the most sensitive and valuable personal data that Google has. collection company. Even a small amount of location data can reveal a person’s identity and routines, they added.
Google uses location information to target consumers with ads from its customers, state officials said.
Attorneys general said Google had misled users about its location-based practices since at least 2014, breaking consumer protection laws.
As part of the settlement, Google also agreed to make these practices more transparent to users, including showing them more information when they turn location account settings on and off and maintaining a web page that gives users information about the data collected by Google.