Google is set to pay $93 million in a settlement with the California Attorney General’s Office after a lengthy investigation revealed alleged deception regarding location data practices.
Furthermore, the investigation found that Google had violated California consumer protection laws by misleading users into thinking that disabling the “Location History” setting prevented the collection and storage of their geolocation data for targeted advertising. Despite the setting being turned off, Google continued to track and store this data, according to the complaint. This settlement also involves changes in how Google informs users about its privacy practices.
The complaint detailed that Google explicitly stated on its help page for Location History that users could “turn off Location History at any point” and that “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” However, these claims were found to be false. Notably, a significant portion of Google’s revenue is derived from advertising, with a substantial reliance on location-based data.
Despite Google’s assertion that users were informed that the Location History function defaulted to off during account setup, the complaint alleged that deceptive prompts between 2014 and 2018 misled users into enabling Location History unknowingly.
While the California Attorney General’s Office has held Google accountable for alleged deception, privacy advocates, including Nathalie Maréchal from the Center for Democracy and Technology, emphasize the need for more comprehensive privacy protections at the federal level.
Maréchal pointed out that privacy violations should not be tolerated just because they are disclosed in fine print, particularly when sensitive geolocation data is at stake. She called for the enactment of comprehensive, rights-based federal legislation to protect all Americans.