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Google Will Pay $85 Million to Arizona in What State’s Lawyers Call a ‘Groundbreaking’ Settlement on Consumer Fraud Claims

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The Google logo is seen on a computer in this photo illustration in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2019. (Photo credit ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP/Getty Images)

Google will pay $85 million to Arizona to settle a lawsuit filed more than two years ago accusing the tech giant of consumer fraud over its use of location data, attorneys for the Grand Canyon State said on Tuesday.

In May 2020, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) sued Google LLC in Superior Court for Maricopa County. The lawsuit claimed that Google used deceptive practices to obtain users’ location in order to exploit it for lucrative advertising purposes.

“While Google users are led to believe they can opt-out of location tracking, the company exploits other avenues to invade personal privacy,” Brnovich said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible to stop Google from tracking your movements without your knowledge or consent. This is contrary to the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and even the most innovative companies must operate within the law.”

The case grew out of an Associated Press investigation, titled “Google tracks your movements, like it or not,” from Aug. 13 2018. According to the article, Google continued to track users’ location data on their smartphones even after the “Location History” setting was disabled, a practice denounced in the lawsuit as misleading. The Grand Canyon State’s complaint, under the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act, followed a little less than two years later.

Mere weeks before the pending trial date, the state’s lead attorney filed a notice of settlement.

“The parties hereby inform the Court that they have reached a final settlement in this matter,” Arizona’s attorney Kevin D. Neal wrote in the notice. “The parties respectfully request that the Court deny any pending motions as moot and vacate all pending dates and deadlines, including the Status Conference set for October 4, 2022, and the trial date set for October 24, 2022.”

Arizona’s hailed the settlement as “groundbreaking” in both size and timing.

“Over the past 20 months, we beat Google’s attempts to prevent the State from presenting critical evidence to a jury,” Neal said in a statement, casting the development as David defeating Goliath. “We defeated Google’s motion for summary judgment and motions to exclude experts on internet privacy and deceptive design practices. We thwarted Google’s efforts to try the case to a judge and thus quashed Google’s efforts to prevent an Arizona jury from hearing this case.”

Neal’s co-counsel Kenneth N. Ralston touted Arizona’s path as a national model.

“Arizona was the first state in the country to file a lawsuit against Google for deceptive and unfair collection, use, and exploitation of user location data,” Ralston wrote. “It is also the first State to settle a lawsuit with Google regarding these allegations, but it likely will not be the last.”

Texas, Indiana, Washington state and the District of Columbia filed similar lawsuits.

Under the terms of the settlement, Brnovich will spend $5 million for educational institutes, including “an accredited law school that maintains programs for the education of attorney general staff and judges regarding consumer protection issues” and a “bipartisan association or forum of state attorneys general that provides programming to current attorneys general regarding consumer protection issues.”

“The Arizona Legislature shall spend or direct the remainder of the $77,250,000 […] toward education, broadband, and Internet privacy efforts and purposes,” the settlement says, providing for deductions on those educational programs and litigation expenses.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement that 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.

Read the settlement, below:

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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."