Google to pay record $391 million fine for misleading users over location data collection
Google has agreed to pay $391.5 million to settle with 40 U.S. states for misleading users about collecting personal location data, making it the biggest consumer privacy settlement ever by the prosecutor general, according to the US Department of Justice.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who led the settlement with Nebraska AG Doug Peterson, pointed out Tuesday, Nov. 15, that for years Google prioritized profit over the privacy of its customers. users.
“Google tricked its users into thinking they had disabled location tracking in their account settings, when in fact Google continued to collect their location information. In addition to the multi-million settlement dollars, as part of negotiations with AGs, Google has agreed to significantly improve its location tracking disclosures and user controls starting in 2023,” reads the DoJ press release.
Authorities launched an investigation into Google’s collection practices following a 2018 Associated Press article that found that Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.”
According to the article, there are two settings responsible for collecting location data, “Location History” and “Web & App Activity”. The former is “disabled” by default while the latter is automatically enabled when users create a Google account, including all Android users.
Location data is the core of the IT giant’s digital advertising business. However, location data can be used to expose a person’s identity and routines, and even obtain personal details.
Google has violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location-based practices since at least 2014. The DOJ said Google was confusing its users about using account and device settings to limit Google location tracking.
The settlement requires Google to be more transparent about its practices. In particular, Google must:
-Display additional information to users each time they enable or disable a location-related account setting;
-Make key location tracking information inescapable to users (i.e. not hidden); and
-Provide users with detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it is used on an enhanced “Location Technologies” web page.
Following the settlement, Google said it introduced more transparency and tools to help users manage their data and minimize the data it collects.
Here are the measures announced by the company:
– Launched industry-first auto-delete controls and enabled them by default for all new users, giving you the option to automatically delete data on a rolling basis and keep only 3, 18, or 36 months of data at a time. time.
-Developed easy-to-understand settings like incognito mode on Google Maps, preventing searches or places you navigate to from being saved to your account.
-Introduces more transparency tools, including Your Data in Maps and Search, which give you quick access to your key location settings directly from our core products.