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Attorney General Ford, 39 Other Attorneys General Announce Google Settlement over Location Tracking Practices

Carson City, NV – Today, Attorney General Aaron D. Ford announced that Nevada, along with 39 other states, has reached a $391.5 million multistate settlement with Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google Account settings.

Nevada will receive $6,067,457.42 from the settlement, which is the largest multistate Attorney General privacy settlement in the history of the U.S.

“Consumers must be able to make informed decisions about which businesses to use and must be able to trust that those businesses are representing themselves honestly to the public,” said AG Ford. “This historic settlement shows that businesses that hide information from the public will be held accountable. I, and my colleagues around the country, will not overlook misrepresentations like this.”

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

The attorneys general opened the Google investigation following 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, the attorneys general 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 both existed and 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.

The attorneys general of Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement negotiations, assisted by Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Joining Attorney General Ford in the final settlement were the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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