Oct 4, 2022 - Technology

Google settles Arizona location data suit for $85 million

Illustration of a stack of money with a floating navigation icon on top.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Google will pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit by the Arizona Attorney General's Office over the way the tech giant used customers' location data.

  • The settlement averts a trial that was scheduled to begin on Oct. 24.

Catch up quick: Attorney General Mark Brnovich began investigating Google in 2018 after the Associated Press reported that some of the company's apps continued tracking and storing users' location data even after they turned off the location history feature.

  • Brnovich sued Google in state court in 2020, alleging it violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Driving the news: Brnovich announced the settlement Tuesday morning, calling it one of the largest consumer fraud lawsuits in Arizona history.

  • Google will pay $77,250,000 to Arizona's general fund, and another $7,750,000 to the attorney general's outside counsel.
  • The settlement directs the state legislature to spend the money that goes into the general fund on education, broadband and internet privacy efforts.
  • The AG's office will direct $5 million to an accredited law school and to a bipartisan AGs' association for consumer protection training and programming.

Why it matters: The bulk of Google's profits come from advertising, and it uses customers' location data to help determine which ads to target them with.

  • The AG's office noted that 80% of the $161 billion in revenue that Google generated in 2019 came from advertising.

What they're saying: "When I was elected attorney general, I promised Arizonans I would fight for them and hold everyone, including corporations like Google, accountable," Brnovich said in a press statement. “I am proud of this historic settlement that proves no entity, not even big tech companies, is above the law."

Of note: The settlement does not require Google to admit wrongdoing or to the violation of any laws.

The other side: Google spokesperson José Castañeda told Axios that the case was based on outdated policies the company changed years ago.

  • "We provide straightforward controls and auto delete options for location data, and are always working to minimize the data we collect. We are pleased to have this matter resolved and will continue to focus our attention on providing useful products for our users," Castañeda said.
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