Google settles long-running location tracking probe

Google agreed a $391.5 million settlement in the US following a probe launched by 40 states into allegations the technology giant tracked users’ location to benefit its digital advertising business.

A statement from Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel along with the 39 other attorney generals, explained the settlement had been reached following a four-year investigation.

In addition to the payment, Google will be required to be more transparent by making users aware of how their location data is being used along with how to change account settings if they wish to disable the function, limit data collection and delete information already accrued.

The attorney generals launched the probe in 2018 following an Associated Press article which revealed Google recorded movements “even when you explicitly tell it not to”, focussing specifically on the company’s location history, and web and app activity settings.

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Nessel explained location is a key part of Google’s digital advertising business, with the company employing the personal and behavioural data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target adverts on behalf of its 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,” she said.

Google faced a similar probe in Arizona, and agreed to pay $85 million as a settlement last month.