Virginia to Get $10.7 Million in Settlement over Google Location Tracking

Virginia is set to receive $10.7 million as part of a $391.5 million multistate settlement with Google over allegations that the tech company misled users about location tracking related to their Google account settings.

“It is imperative that companies take customers’ personal data protection seriously and are transparent and direct about the data collected. As Attorney General, I am committed to protecting Virginians’ personal information and holding accountable companies who mislead Virginians and disregard their privacy,” Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a press release.

In 2018, AP News reported, “Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to. An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.”

The article said that even though users paused “Location History,” some Google apps still stored location data, and users needed to disable another setting, “Web and App Activity,” that was enabled by default.

“Specifically, Google caused users to be confused about the scope of the Location History setting, the fact that the Web & App Activity setting existed and also collected location information, and the extent to which consumers who use Google products and services could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings,” Miyares’ release states.

That prompted a lawsuit from a coalition of attorneys general, leading to the settlement announced this week.

As part of the settlement, Google must provide additional information to users when they change location-related setting, not hide key information about location tracking, and provide detailed information about tracking technology at a “Location Technologies” webpage. Google is also barred from using and storing some location data and must have more user-friendly account controls.

In a Google blog post Monday, the company emphasized new transparency tools.

“Consistent with those improvements, we settled an investigation with 40 U.S. state attorneys general based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago. As well as a financial settlement, we will be making updates in the coming months to provide even greater controls and transparency over location data,” the company said.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Jason Miyares” by Jason Miyares.

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