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Google will settle with states over location monitoring for a record-breaking $391.5M.

According to an agreement the corporation reached with a coalition of 40 state attorneys general, Google agreed to pay $391.5 million to settle claims it misled millions of users about a setting that monitored location data without their consent. The settlement was made public on Monday.

According to news releases from the attorneys general of Oregon and Nebraska, who headed the coalition, the monetary total constitutes the largest attorney general-led consumer privacy settlement in American history.

Following an Associated Press article in 2018 that revealed the search engine giant continued to track people's location data even after they opted out, the states opened an investigation into Google's location data collection and practices.

According to a news release from the Office of the New York Attorney General, "Google uses the personal and behavioral data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target ads on behalf of its advertising customers. Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects. Even a limited amount of location data can expose a person’s identity and routines and can be used to infer personal details."

Through two account settings, "Location History" and "Web & App Activity," Google allegedly misled consumers about location tracking.

If a user does not turn on the "Location History" setting, which logs user locations by default, it is off. When utilizing its services, such as Google Maps, Google Search, Google Chrome, and other apps, Google is required to inform users of this setting.

However, "Web & App Activity," another location-tracking setting, was turned by default to "on" without warning users, claim the attorneys general.

Google must be more open with customers as part of the settlement, as detailed by the New York AG, including by:

1. Showing additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”;

2. Making key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and

3. Giving users detailed information about the types of location data it collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.

The Oregon AG claims that Google will start implementing these modifications in 2023.

An inquiry for comment from Google did not immediately receive a response. In coming to the arrangement, the business neither acknowledged nor disputed any wrongdoing.



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