Tech giant Google has accepted payment of $391.5 million for its location tracking practices related to account settings, which were demanded by prosecutors in 40 US states. The agreement has been described by prosecutors as the largest payment in the history of the North American country by a private entity, before a lawsuit filed by several states.
According to a statement from the Connecticut attorney general’s office, Google collected location information from consumers who had expressly asked it not to. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told it not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy and a violation of state law,” wrote that state’s attorney general, William Tong.
In addition, through his Twitter account, he pointed out that “location data is among the most sensitive and valuable information that Google collects” and that “people need more control over how their data is used.”
The note has highlighted that only with a “limited amount of location data” can one know “the identity and routines of a person” and that information can be used to “infer personal details”.
Google uses this data to create detailed user profiles and target ads to consumers on behalf of its advertising clients.
For her part, the Attorney General of Oregon, Ellen Rosenblum, stressed that “for years, Google has prioritized profits over the privacy of its users.”
The investigation began in 2018 after the US agency AP revealed that Google continued to record user movements even after they explicitly asked it to stop doing so and determined that “Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about their location tracking practices since at least 2014.”
In addition to paying the fine, which prevents the case from going to trial, Google has pledged to be more transparent about tracking users’ locations.
Google will be required to display additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting on or off; key information about location tracking will not be hidden from users and will provide explanations through a website about the types of location data it collects and how it is used.