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Google settles user tracking claim for $392 million

In what authorities say is a “historic” multi-state privacy deal, Google will pay $391.5 million to settle claims it improperly tracked and sold users’ location data to advertisers.

VCG/Contributor I Getty Images

Google campus in the Bay Area in 2022.

“Google has for years prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. release about the settlement Monday. “They have been crafty and deceitful.”

The problem started in 2018 when The Associated Press published a story which showed that Google tracked and stored the locations of people using or searching Google Maps — and anyone with an Android — even if they turned off Location History, through Web & App Activity and other location trackers.

This prompted an investigation by state AGs. The case involved 40 states, including Louisiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Some helped with discussions, while others signed the settlement, according to Rosenblum’s release.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment told NPR the mechanism in question has been disabled for years.

“In line with the improvements we’ve made in recent years, we’ve settled this investigation, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, told the outlet.

But going forward, according to the release, Google will also need to be more “transparent” about how it shares data, including showing users more information about location settings and location tracking.

The money will apparently be split between several states. Oregon gets more than $14 million” because of [its] leading role,” said Rosenblum’s release.

Currently, leaders in Washington are debating federal privacy regulations — there are scattered laws in several states — to no avail, according to NPR.

Google discussed the settlement and privacy-related measures it has already implemented, as well as those planned, including making it easier to find information about yourself that the company has and making it easier to delete, in a blog post on Monday.

“Today’s settlement is another step toward giving you more meaningful choices and minimizing data collection while delivering more helpful services,” the company wrote.

Google pulled in $54.5 billion in revenue from Google Advertising, according to its most recent quarterly report.

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