On Thursday, the California attorney general’s office announced a proposed settlement with Google over allegations concerning the tech giant’s use of users’ location data. The settlement, valued at $93 million, follows a contentious lawsuit that accused Google of misleading users about how their location data would be collected, stored, and utilized.
The Allegations: More Than Just History
Filed by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and 40 other states, the lawsuit alleged that Google deceived users by falsely claiming that turning off the “Location History” setting would prevent the company from storing their location data. Contrary to this, the complaint states that Google continued to collect and store location data through other avenues such as device-level settings, Wi-Fi scanning, and web and app activity.
The lawsuit further accused Google of being disingenuous about users’ ability to opt out of geotargeted ads. According to the complaint, Google still utilized real-time location information to serve personalized ads, even when users chose settings that requested non-personalized ads.
In a statement, José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, noted that the settlement was based on “outdated product policies that we changed years ago.” He emphasized the improvements Google has made in recent years regarding user privacy.
This settlement is not an isolated incident. In November, Google settled with 40 other states for a whopping $391.5 million over similar allegations. The California settlement appears to be another dent in Google’s armor, as issues concerning user privacy continue to make headlines.
What Does the Settlement Entail?
In addition to the financial ramifications, the settlement requires Google to provide more transparent information concerning location-related account settings. This aims to give users a clearer understanding of how their location data is used.
“Our investigation revealed that Google was telling its users one thing — that it would no longer track their location once they opted out — but doing the opposite and continuing to track its users’ movements for its own commercial gain. That’s unacceptable, and we’re holding Google accountable with today’s settlement,” Attorney General Bonta said.
The Bigger Picture
This case serves as a reminder of the ongoing tension between tech companies and regulatory bodies over data privacy issues. With increasing scrutiny from lawmakers, the pressure is on for tech giants like Google to be more transparent about their data practices.
The settlement also aims to restore competition in the mobile app market by challenging Google’s alleged monopoly over Android app distribution. While the financial settlement might be a short-term blow for Google, the long-term impact could be much more significant if it leads to changes in how Google and other tech companies handle user data.