Google pays $392 million settlement for tracking users without their knowledge

  • Big tech firms knowingly tracking their users without consent is nothing new, Google faced a substantial lawsuit in the US over its recent behaviour.
  • The company was charged by 40 Attorneys General in the States for misleading users who thought they had turned off location tracking. 
  • Now the company has chosen to settle to the tune of $391.5 million.

It can be difficult to keep track of the number of lawsuits that big tech firms like Google face these days, with antitrust behaviour being the most common. The same goes for collecting data or tracking users, with Google now entering a settlement over the latter.

This as the company has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement in a lawsuit involving 40 Attorneys General in the United States. The case stemmed from the fact that Google continued to track its users, despite the fact that said users thought they had disabled or opted out of location tracking.

Here the Attorneys General note that Google knowingly misled its users over what it was tracking, and indeed the extent to which they were being tracked.

“As outlined in the settlement, Google misled its users into thinking they had turned off location tracking in their account settings, when, in fact, Google continued to collect their location information. In addition to the multimillion-dollar settlement, as part of the negotiations with the AGs, Google has agreed to significantly improve its location tracking disclosures and user controls starting in 2023,” noted the Oregon Department of Justice in a statement.

“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy. They have been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they had turned off their location tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers,” added Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

It is a rather damning characterisation, and the fact that Google has chosen to settle does little to counter its misleading behaviour.

Along with forking out $392 million, Google has had to add conditions as part of the settlement. These include:

  1. “Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting ‘on’ or ‘off’;
  2. Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and
  3. Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced ‘Location Technologies’ webpage.”

With the eyes of these Attorneys General on Google, its tracking practices, and the disclosure thereof, it will be interesting to see whether the company will adhere to the terms of the settlement. As is how it goes about tracking in other parts of the world.

[Image – Photo by GeoJango Maps on Unsplash]


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