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Google agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states in the U.S. over its location-tracking practices. The settlement is the largest attorney general-led consumer privacy settlement ever.

The company misguided users about the collection of personal geolocations, continuing to record data even after the location tracking was turned off in the account settings.

Details about the Unauthorized Data Collecting

“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”, explains Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

The investigation was opened after a 2018 Associated Press article that showed how the Internet giant was undermining privacy controls by tracking users’ locations on Android and iOS even after they turn off the “location history”.

Location History is “off” unless a user turns on the setting, but Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account, including all Android users.


These geolocation details combined with other personal and behavioral information help the tech giant to create thorough user profiles for advertising purposes. Even a tiny quantity of location data can reveal a person’s identity and habits, as well as be used to deduce personal details.

In addition to the fine, starting in 2023 Google will have to be more transparent about its location-tracking settings, and improve users’ control over the data that is collected.

Google Privacy Updates

The search engine company announced a series of changes, meanwhile outlining the existing privacy tools like auto-delete, Incognito mode on Google Maps, and Your Data in Maps and Search, which allows users to easily change the settings.

The announcement called the problems under discussion “outdated product policies that we changed years ago” and detailed the forthcoming changes:

  • – Revamping user information hubs: (…) we’re adding additional disclosures to our Activity controls and Data & Privacy pages. We’re also creating a single, comprehensive information hub that highlights key location settings to help people make informed choices about their data.
  • – Simplified deletion of location data: We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow. We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.
  • – Updated account set-up: We’ll give users setting up new accounts a more detailed explanation of what Web & App Activity is, what information it includes, and how it helps their Google experience.


Not the First Time for Google

Three months ago, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) sanctioned the company with AU$60 million for “making misleading representations to consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data on Android phones between January 2017 and December 2018”, according to The Hacker News.

It was only last month when the organization settled for another $85 million with the state of Arizona for recording location data without the users’ consent. Similar accusations are made in Washington, D.C., Indiana, Texas, and Washington.

In quarter three of 2022 Google announced a total of $69.09 billion in revenue, from which $54.48 billion was advertising revenue.

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Andreea Chebac

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Andreea is a digital content creator within Heimdal® with a great belief in the educational power of content.