In the largest multistate privacy settlement in U.S. history, Google has agreed to a $391.5m settlement with 40 states in connection with an investigation into how Google tracked users' locations.
The investigation by the states was spurred by a 2018 Associated Press story, which found that Google continued to track people’s location data even after they opted out of such tracking. The Associated Press reported that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so. The Associated Press reported that the privacy issue affected some 2 billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search. Computer science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the Associated Press’ request.
According to the attorneys general, Google misled users about its location tracking practices since at least 2014, violating state consumer protection laws.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed the first state action against Google in May 2020, alleging that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software. Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month, but by then other attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia pursued cases against Google to hold Google accountable for its alleged deception.
As part of the settlement, Google also agreed to make its location tracking practices more transparent to users, including showing them more information when they turn location account settings on and off and keeping a webpage that gives users information about the data Google collects.