Nov 14, 2022 - Technology

Google will pay states $392 million in settlement over privacy

Illustration of the google logo as a stained glass window

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Google will pay $392 million to 40 states to settle an investigation by 40 state attorneys general into whether the company misled users about location tracking, the state attorneys general announced Monday.

Flashback: The states' investigation into Google and location tracking kicked off in 2018 after an Associated Press story reported on Google recording user movement even when users had certain settings turned off.

Why it matters: For Google, the agreement marks another pricy privacy settlement with the states, which have taken the lead in U.S. privacy enforcement in the absence of a national online consumer privacy law.

  • Google recently agreed to pay $85 million to settle a privacy lawsuit brought by Arizona, and it's fighting several others.

Details: The AGs write in the settlement that Google violated state consumer protection laws by not being clear about its policies, including the "Web & App Activity" setting, which is turned on by default.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Google agreed to, starting in 2o23:

  • Show more information to users when a location-related account setting is turned on or off.
  • Make information about location tracking more visible.
  • Give users "detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it's used at an enhanced 'Location Technologies' page."
  • The settlement also limits Google's use of certain types of location information.

What they're saying: "Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to Big Tech," Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement.

  • "Additionally, Big Tech must recognize the limitations in their collection efforts as it relates to various state laws."

The other side: "Consistent with improvements we've made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago," José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, said in a statement.

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