Alaska, other states win $391 million settlement from Google over location tracking, privacy practices

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By JON STYF | THE CENTER SQUARE

Alaska and 39 other states won a combined $391.5 million settlement with Google over location tracking practices.

The group of attorneys general filed the complaint after the Associated Press exposed that Google is collecting personal and behavioral location data and selling it to advertisers. Location history in Google settings was off unless it was turned on by the user but the web & app activity setting is automatically turned on for users.

Because of that, the attorneys general believed that Google was in violation of state consumer protection laws because it was misleading customers about its location tracking. They claimed the location history setting caused users to be confused about how all-encompassing that setting was on user’s phones.

“For years, Google has prioritized profit over the privacy of South Carolinians who use Google products and services,” said South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose state will receive $7,813,840.87 from the settlement. “Consumer privacy is one of the most important issues facing consumers right now, and our office will continue to do its part in ensuring the protection of our citizens in this way.”

The attorneys general of Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement negotiations, assisted by Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

“Consumer privacy is one of my office’s top priorities,” said Oregon attorney general Ellen Rosenblum, whose state will receive $14.8 million from the settlement. “That’s why it’s so important to me that Oregon played a key role in this settlement. Until we have comprehensive privacy laws, companies will continue to compile large amounts of our personal data for marketing purposes with few controls.”

The final settlement was also joined by Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“Consumers were deceived by Google as to when their location was being tracked and how that information was used,” said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, whose state will receive $19.5 million under the settlement. “With the proliferation of smart devices that collect increased data on its users, today’s announcement highlights the need for updated privacy laws that more effectively protect consumers.”

The settlement includes an agreement that Google will begin showing additional information on location-tracking settings on an account, making key information about location tracking clear and unavoidable to users and requires Google to give users detailed information about the types of location data that Google is collecting.

Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.

16 COMMENTS

    • I don’t know yet how much Alaska gets, but it will go into the constitutional budget reserve, if my memory serves me. – sd

  1. Taking our rights has remedy $ that is what it is called our rights. That is what makes it it our expressed right. Government is only established to secure and defend OUR Rights. THAT’S IT.

  2. When state governments “win” a judgment against private companies, does anyone ever see any of this money except for government workers and whatever preselected special interest groups with their hands out? Why doesn’t this money go to the consumer who was actually affected by the invasion of privacy? In this case, we the people who used Google were harmed but government is rewarded for the damages done to us, the people.

  3. This is so funny — Google makes 59 billion profit in 2020 they settle the lawsuit for $391 million and the states get the money not the people whose privacy was violated. All the talk in this article about protecting people and how important there privacy is for a company that makes $59 billion to get a fine of $391 million for violations to the citizens privacy its only good business to continue doing so that’s considered overhead. I wonder if thats a tax write off and for none of the people that were violated to get the money but that of the state is simply a joke a dam sad joke the fine should have been $25 billion that would have got there attention one wonders how much profit was made selling or using this info

  4. Chump change.

    After data raping to their hearts content it is like being given a well used, sometimes working, sometimes smoking, one slice toaster.

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