Attorney General Mark Brnovich Achieves Historic Settlement with Google for $85 Million

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced an $85 million settlement with tech giant Google LLC in a lawsuit accusing the company of making a profit by deceptively accessing users’ locations.

“When I was elected attorney general, I promised Arizonans I would fight for them and hold everyone, including corporations like Google, accountable,” Brnovich said in a press release. “I am proud of this historic settlement that proves no entity, not even big tech companies, is above the law.”

According to the settlement agreement, most of the payment will go to the state’s general fund. The general fund will receive $77,250,000 of the settlement, with the remainder going to the state’s council for attorneys’ fees on October 24. The state legislation will have to decide how to spend the money, although the settlement outlined using it for education, broadband, and internet privacy. Additionally, 5 million of the payment will be used for educational institutes, such as accredited law schools, which have programs for educating attorney general staff on consumer protection issues.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) alleged that this settlement represents one of the most significant consumer fraud lawsuits in Arizona history and the largest amount Google has paid in this kind of lawsuit per capita. Joseph Kanefield, Brunn Roysden, and Michael Catlett handled the case for the AGO with counsel outside Arizona from Gallagher & Kennedy and Ruttenberg IP Law.

Brnovich first began his investigation of Google in 2018 after viewing an article from The Associated Press, which revealed the tech giant used consumers’ locations even when they explicitly told it not to. One of Google’s most significant revenue streams comes through advertising. In 2019 advertising generated the company $135 billion of its $161 billion total income. One way Google targets users with advertisements is by using their physical location to flood them with ads related to a geographical area. Using people’s locations also gives Google data on how effective some ads are in one place compared to another.

However, many believed their location was hidden from Google while using their apps. The app has a setting called location history, which Google advertised as letting people stop it from storing their locations and destinations. Nevertheless, this was not entirely true, as Google apps would still store time-stamped location data without asking. Simply opening maps or receiving an automatic weather update, Google would take and store consumers’ locations, which it could use for advertising. People could delete these snapshots, although it is a laborious process.

Two years later, Brnovich filed a lawsuit against Google regarding this issue, alleging it used deceptive and unfair practices to collect users’ information, even when asked not to, for financial gain. He was the first attorney general to hold the tech giant accountable in state court.

According to Fox Business, Google alleged that the lawsuit was based on outdated product policies changed years ago and that it is “always working to minimize the data we collect.” Google even tried to have the suit thrown, but Judge Timothy Thomason denied the motion.

The $85 million settlement fee represents just 0.05 percent of Google’s total earnings in 209 alone.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mark Brnovich” by Mark Brnovich. Background Photo “Googleplex HQ” by The Pancake of Heaven!. CC BY-SA 4.0.


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