Google will be shelling out $391.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought forth by a group of attorneys general from 40 US states. The settlement also requires Google to introduce more user-friendly account controls and settings and limit its use and storage of specific types of location data.
Moving forward, the company also has to be more transparent regarding its location data tracking and collection practices with requirements to show additional information where applicable and when location-related account settings are changed as well as show detailed information on what data it harvests from users including its usage.
The lawsuit in question relates to an Associated Press article published in 2018 stating that the company was misleading Android users and tracking their locations since at least 2014, even after the users thought they had disabled location tracking.
Android users were misled into thinking that disabling the “Location History” setting would disable location tracking. However, in reality, the location tracking was controlled by another setting called “Web and App Activity”, enabled by default and allowed the company to harvest and use individual users’ personally identifiable location data.
This isn’t the only loss Google has faced by using this approach to collect users’ location data. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also levied a fine of $60 million on the search giant earlier in August for misleading users and tracking location data for nearly two years between January 2017 and December 2018 using the aforementioned trickery.
The company’s antitrust practices have also cost it dearly, with the Competition Commission of India, the country’s competition regulator imposing a monetary penalty of ₹1337.76 crores on Google India for anti-competitive practices related to Android devices in the country. The CCI claimed that Google leveraged its dominant position in the market to push manufacturers to not remove its apps like Chrome, YouTube and Gmail on the phones they sell.