Google to pay $391.5M settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google to pay $391.5M settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve an investigation into the tech behemoth tracking people’s locations, state attorneys general said Monday.

Investigators probed Google’s location-tracking efforts for potential violations of state consumer protection laws following reports suggesting the company tracked people even when they told the company not to do so.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, said Monday it is time for big tech companies to recognize state laws imposing limitations on their data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry said in a statement. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

State attorneys general described the settlement as the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, labeled the penalty paid by Google as a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said in a statement. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

The attorneys general began investigating Google following a 2018 Associated Press report saying that Android devices and iPhones store people’s location data even if those people select a privacy setting intended to prevent the company from following along.

Alongside the hefty penalty Google has agreed to pay, the state attorneys general said, Google must also not hide key information about location tracking, give users detailed information about the types of location-tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn a location-related account setting to “off.”

States will receive differing sums as a result of the settlement. For example, Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana will receive more than $12.7 million while Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut will collect more than $6.5 million.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.