In what authorities are saying is a “historic” multi-state privacy agreement, Google will pay $391.5 million to settle claims it improperly tracked users’ location data and sold it to advertisers.
“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon said in a release about the settlement Monday. “They have been crafty and deceptive.”
The issue began in 2018 when The Associated Press published a story that showed Google was tracking and storing the locations of people who use Google Maps or search — and, everyone with an Android — even if they had “Location History” turned off, through “Web and App Activity,” and other location trackers.
This led to an investigation by state AGs. The case involved 40 states including Louisiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Some helped with discussions, while others signed onto the settlement, per Rosenblum’s release.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment but told NPR the relevant mechanism has been disabled for years.
“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, told the outlet.
But moving forward, Google will also be required to be “more transparent,” about how it shares data, including showing users more information about location settings and location tracking, per the release.
The money will apparently be distributed to various states. Oregon will get over $14 million “because of [its] leadership role,” Rosenblum’s release said.
Currently, leaders in Washington are debating federal privacy regulation — there are scattered laws in various states — to no avail, per NPR.
Google discussed the settlement and privacy-related measures it has already implemented as well as planned ones, including making it easier to find information about yourself that the company has and making it easier to delete it, in a blog post on Monday.
“Today’s settlement is another step along the path of giving more meaningful choices and minimizing data collection while providing more helpful services,” the company wrote.
Google brought in $54.5 billion in revenue from Google Advertising, per its most recent quarterly earnings report.