AG Jeff Landry announces historic Google settlement over location tracking practices

(Ben Nuttall / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 11:32 AM CST
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The following information is from the Office of Attorney Jeff Landry.

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Attorney General Jeff Landry today (Nov. 14) announced that Louisiana and 39 other attorneys general have reached a $391.5 million multistate settlement with Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google Account settings. This is the largest multistate Attorney General privacy settlement in the history of the U.S. Louisiana will receive $12,769,002.16 from the settlement.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on Big Tech for years, and this is why,” said Attorney General Landry. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to Big Tech. Additionally, Big Tech must recognize the limitations in their collection efforts as it relates to various state laws.”

Location data is a key part of Google’s digital advertising business. Google uses the personal and behavioral data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target ads on behalf of its advertising customers. Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects. Even a limited amount of location data can expose a person’s identity and routines and can be used to infer personal details.

The investigation into Google began after a 2018 Associated Press article that revealed Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.” The article focused on two Google account settings: Location History and Web & App Activity. Location History is “off” unless a user turns on the setting, but Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account, including all Android phone users. As detailed in the settlement, Attorney General Landry and his colleagues found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location-tracking practices since at least 2014. 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.

The settlement requires Google to be more transparent with consumers about its practices. Google must:

  • Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”;
  • Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and
  • Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.

The settlement also limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires Google account controls to be more user-friendly. As a result of the settlement, Louisiana will receive $12.7 million.

“My office will continue our efforts to keep Big Tech in check,” concluded General Landry. “Whether it be collusion with the Federal government, deceptive practices, or otherwise, we will hold them accountable.”

Louisiana is joined in the settlement by the Attorneys General of Oregon, Nebraska, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the settlement may be found at agjefflandry.com/Article/13086.

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