WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (Reuters) – Google Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) It will pay $391.5 million to settle allegations by 40 states that the search and advertising giant illegally tracked users’ locations, the Michigan attorney general’s office said Monday.
The investigation and settlement, which was led by Oregon and Nebraska, is a sign of mounting legal troubles for the tech giant from state attorneys general who have been aggressively targeting the company’s user-tracking practices in recent months.
The Iowa Attorney General’s office said that in addition to payment, Google should be more transparent with consumers about when location tracking occurs and give users detailed information about location tracking data on a special webpage.
“When consumers make the decision not to share location data on their devices, they need to be able to trust that the company will no longer track their every move,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a statement. “This settlement demonstrates that companies must be transparent in how they track customers and comply with state and federal privacy laws.”
Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said: “In line with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we’ve settled this investigation, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago.”
Google said in a blog post on Monday that it would “make updates in the coming months to provide greater controls and transparency over location data”.
These changes include making it easier to delete location data. New users will have auto-deletion controls that allow them to request that certain information be deleted from Google when you reach a certain age.
State attorneys opened an investigation in 2018 after a report that Google recorded location data even when users ordered it not to. The investigation found that Google has misled consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014, in violation of state consumer protection laws.
Arizona filed a similar case against Google and settled it for $85 million in October 2022.
Texas, Indiana, Washington state and the District of Columbia sued Google in January over what it called deceptive site-tracking practices that violated users’ privacy.
Google generated $111 billion in ad revenue in the first half of this year, more than any other online ad vendor. Consumer location is key to helping the advertiser navigate the digital clutter to make the ad more relevant and grab the attention of the consumer.
Writing by Diane Bartz and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Anna Driver and Aurora Ellis
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