Boise, Id- Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden today announced that he, along with 39 other attorneys general, has reached a $391.5 million multistate settlement with Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google Account settings. This is the largest multistate attorney general privacy settlement in U.S. history.
Idaho will receive $4.9 million from the settlement. Per Idaho Code, the money will be deposited into the state’s Consumer Protection Fund.
“This settlement represents a significant win for consumer privacy,” Wasden said. “Companies must be held accountable when they fail to inform consumers regarding the collection of their private data.”
Location data is a key part of Google’s digital advertising business. 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.
Attorneys general opened an investigation following publication of an Associated Press article that discussed two Google account settings: Location History and Web & App Activity. Location History is “off” unless a user turns on the setting. But Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users—including all Android users—set up a Google account.
Attorneys general found that Google allegedly misled consumers about the scope of the Location History setting and the existence of the Web & App Activity setting. Additionally, Google misrepresented the extent that consumers could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings.
The settlement requires Google to be more transparent with consumers about its practices. Google must:
- Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off;”
- Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and
- Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.
The settlement also limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires Google account controls to be more user-friendly.