Google Settles Deceptive Location Tracking Lawsuit for $93 Million
Google will pay $93m to settle accusations of misleading consumers on how and when their location information was being tracked and stored, a considerable payout for the tech giant that following a years-long investigation into its data practices.
The settlement stems from a lawsuit brought by the California attorney general, Rob Bonta, that concluded the company misled consumers into believing they had more control over their location information than they actually did.
“Our investigation revealed that Google was telling its users one thing – that it would no longer track their location once they opted out – but doing the opposite and continuing to track its users’ movements for its own commercial gain,” Bonta said in a statement announcing the settlement. “That’s unacceptable, and we’re holding Google accountable.”
The complaint rests on a central discrepancy between how Google represented its handling of user location data and how the attorney general’s office alleged it actually handled it. While Google gave people the option to turn off their “location history” and explicitly stated the company would not track the places they went if they chose this option, the company “continued to collect and store that user’s location data through other sources”, including through a user’s “web and app activity” tracker, which the attorney general said continues to be on by default.
The AG’s office further alleged that Google “deceived users about their ability to opt out of advertisements targeted to their location”.
While Google is not admitting any fault as part of the settlement, the company did agree to several other terms in addition to paying $93m. Those conditions include being more transparent about its location tracking practices; notifying users before location information is used to build ad profiles to target specific people; and getting approval from Google’s internal privacy working group before making any material changes to privacy.
José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, told the Guardian: “Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this matter, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago.”
Google previously settled a similar lawsuit brought by 40 states’ attorneys general, which levied the same allegations about its deceptive location privacy practices, for nearly $392m in 2022.