Attorney General Lynn Fitch joined 39 other Attorneys General across the U.S. in announcing a $391.5 million multistate settlement with Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google Account settings.
Overall, Mississippi is set to receive $6,026,914.88 from the settlement, making it the largest multistate Attorney General privacy settlement in the history of the U.S.
“Location tracking can be used to reveal a lot about the consumer,” said Fitch, “and it can leave a person exposed to identity theft or other fraud. But even when it is part of a legitimate marketing purpose, the consumer needs to be able to make an informed decision about how their location data is used. It is your personal data and you have the right to decide if and how it can be used.”
The investigation into Google’s use of location data was launched in 2018 after an Associated Press article revealed that the company “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.”
According to the article, Google misled consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014 in account settings relating to Location History and Web & App Activity.
When using Google, Location History is “off” unless a user turns on the setting, but Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account, including all Android phone users.
In turn, the contradicting settings caused users to be confused about the scope of the Location History setting, the fact that the Web & App Activity setting existed and also collected location information, and the extent to which consumers who use Google products and services could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings.
Now, the settlement requires Google to be more transparent with consumers about its practices after violating state consumer protection laws.
Google is now required to:
- Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”
- Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden)
- Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage
The settlement also limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires Google account controls to be more user-friendly.
The Attorneys General of Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement negotiations, assisted by Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The final settlement was also joined by Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.