Google to Pay 1 Million Fine For Silently Tracking User’s Location

Google is agreed to pay a $391.5 fine with 40 state attorneys general for secretly tracking users’ locations is the largest fine ever imposed as a privacy settlement led by Oregon AG Rosenblum and Nebraska AG Doug Peterson, an Attorney General, US.

An allegation against Google was that it misled users to believe that they had Turned off their location tracking from Account settings, but in the background, Google silently tracked its users and collected information about their location.

Location data collected from its users are the most vulnerable data, and it’s one of their key parts to generating revenue through ads. Even a limited amount of collected data also leads to getting the user’s personal information.

Google has performed this silent operation since 2014 that violates the state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices.

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Also Attorney general found that Google confused its users about the extent to which they could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings.

“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” “They have been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they had turned off their location tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers.” said Attorney General Rosenblum.

Settlement Conditions:

Along with the privacy bypass settlement, Google requires to follow the conditions of following:

  1. Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”;
  2. Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and
  3. Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.

The investigation began in 2018 following the article posted in Associated Press that described Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.”

The article reveals about two activities in account settings – Location History and Web & App Activity.

By default, Location History is turned off unless users explicitly turn it on from the settings, meanwhile, the Web & App activity that has control in separate settings is automatically Turned on when user set up their Google account.

“Consumer privacy is one of my office’s top priorities. That’s why it’s so important to me that Oregon played a key role in this settlement. Until we have comprehensive privacy laws, companies will continue to compile large amounts of our personal data for marketing purposes with few controls,” continued AG Rosenblum.

As part of the negotiations with the Attorneys Generals, Google has agreed to significantly improve its location tracking disclosures and user controls starting in 2023.

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BALAJI is a Former Security Researcher (Threat Research Labs) at Comodo Cybersecurity. Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder - Cyber Security News & GBHackers On Security.