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Google hit with record $391 million settlement over shady tracking

The money is going to 40 states.

google logo with blurred pixel background
Image: KnowTechie

Google has agreed to a $391.5 million settlement over its previously shady practices around location tracking.

The coalition of attorneys general that won this settlement calls it the largest settlement from the U.S. regarding internet privacy (via The New York Times).

Their investigation was started in 2018 after an Associated Press report that showed Google was still tracking our location even if we explicitly turned it off on our devices.

Google has changed its policies on location data harvesting

google settlement info
Screenshot: KnowTechie

In a recent blog post, Google said it settled based on “outdated product policies” that were changed years ago.

Those policies were confusing, with users needing to change multiple settings to turn off location data storage.

As part of the settlement, Google will improve user controls and “transparency over location data.” Those include putting additional disclosures onto the Activity controls and Data & Privacy pages.

Google is also creating a new information hub. Users won’t have to dig to find information in multiple parts of their accounts.

From Google:

Revamping user information hubs: To help explain how location data improves our services, we’re adding additional disclosures to our Activity controls and Data & Privacy pages. We’re also creating a single, comprehensive information hub that highlights key location settings to help people make informed choices about their data.

The process for deleting the information is also getting a makeover. A new combined control for turning off Location History and Web & App Activity is coming.

And lastly, the onboarding experience when setting up a new Google account will discuss what these settings do.

That will be about “how it helps [their] Google experience,” so we expect this will gently push the user into agreeing.

Another coalition of four state attorneys general is also suing Google. This lawsuit is for the same misleading location tracking policies.

The State of Arizona also received an $85 million settlement from Google over the same location tracking issue.

We wouldn’t like to bet, but the smart money is on the state attorneys general winning their lawsuit or forcing Google to settle, which is almost the same.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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