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Google Will Pay $391.5 Million to 40 States to Resolve Lawsuit Over Location Data Tracking, AGs Say

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The Google logo is seen on a computer in this photo illustration in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2019.

Google will pay $391.5 million to resolve a lawsuit pursued by a 40-state coalition over its location data tracking, attorneys general announced on Monday.

The tech giant separately paid $85 million to resolve similar litigation in Arizona, touted by the Grand Canyon State’s top prosecutor Mark Brnovich (R) as the first of its kind.

In August 2018, the Associated Press ran an investigation titled “Google tracks your movements, like it or not,” reporting that tracking continued even after users disabled the “Location History” setting on their smartphones.

According to the coalition of 40 AGs, the 32-page agreement codifying Google’s deal will order the company into greater transparency, and more than $20 million will go to New York.

“Big tech companies should not collect consumers’ data without their awareness or consent,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a statement. “Google quietly tracked its users to turn a profit and today they are being held accountable. Every individual should be able to make their own decisions about their data and how it is being used. We will continue to hold companies that violate the law accountable and protect consumers from companies that put profits over people.”

Top prosecutors in Michigan and in Pennsylvania sounded similar notes.

“Google makes the majority of its revenue from using the personal data of those who search in its browsers and use its apps,” wrote Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D). “The company’s online reach enables it to target consumers without the consumer’s knowledge or permission. However, the transparency requirements of this settlement will ensure that Google not only makes users aware of how their location data is being used, but also how to change their account settings if they wish to disable location-related account settings, delete the data collected and set data retention limits.”

The Keystone State will receive just less than $20 million of the money.

“Right now, consumers are beholden to Google’s promise that Big Tech knows what’s best for users’ data,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) wrote. “Google’s impact on the lives of everyday Americans is pervasive— they have a responsibility to consumers to ensure that the data they collect is only obtained with express consent from the user. My office will continue to fight to ensure consumers can control when and how their personal data is collected.”

When Google settled the Arizona case, a spokesperson said the “case is based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago.”

“We provide straightforward controls and auto delete options for location data, and are always working to minimize the data we collect. We are pleased to have this matter resolved and will continue to focus our attention on providing useful products for our users,” said José Castañeda.

The participating attorneys general in Monday’s day hail from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

[Image via ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP/Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."