Consumer Watchdog

Google to pay $40 million in location data harvesting suit

Turning location tracking off didn't stop the company from gathering data.

A close up of a person's hands typing on a smartphone
Pexels user Katerina Holmes | Public Domain
Companies use smart phones to collect a lot of data on us.

Last week, Google announced that it will pay $39.9 million to the state of Washington following a lawsuit over misleading location tracking practices. The lawsuit, filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, alleged that the tech giant gave consumers the false impression that they have more control over how the company collects and uses location data than they really do. 

The Washington AG’s lawsuit accused Google of:

  1. Continuing to collect users’ location, even after someone turned “Location history” off in their account settings
  2. Continuing to track Android devices, even if someone turned location access off
  3. Repeatedly encouraging users to consent to location tracking
  4. Misleadingly claiming some products required location tracking to function

King County Superior Court in Washington has issued a consent decree to bolster Google’s privacy protocol. The decree requires that Google provide consumers with more robust information about location tracking, as well as how the data is used. 

Google uses much of the data it harvests from its users for its large advertising business. The company made nearly $150 billion from advertising in 2020 alone. Location data can reveal a lot about us, like where we live and work and where we get health care.

No company should use invasive and misleading data collecting practices to harvest user data.

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