Sun. May 19th, 2024
A view of Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California, United States

Google to pay $62 million for tracking users without consent, according to lawsuit

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(KRON)—On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila approved a final, multimillion-dollar settlement with Google.

The class action lawsuit comes amid an investigation by the Associated Press that exposed the Silicon Valley titan for tracking down user information without consent, even if they used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so, the settlement states.

According to the settlement, Google published a support page on how to manage and delete a user’s location history, which stated, “When you turn off location history for your Google account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google account.”

Despite its promises against tracking a user’s location, the settlement states, “Google’s representation was false.” As AP revealed, turning off “Location History” only stopped Google from creating a location timeline that the user could view. Google, however, still continued to track the phone owners and kept a record of their locations, the settlement states.

Even when “Location History” is turned off, the settlement states a user’s location is stored every time they use any Google-controlled features on their phone, including the Google Maps app, weather apps, and searches made with the phone’s mobile browser.

For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude — accurate to the square foot — and save it to your Google account.

RYAN NAKASHIMA, REPORTER FOR THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Contrary to the plain language and simple process told in the Google support pages referenced above, in order to actually prevent location tracking, an individual must navigate to a “deeply buried and non-obvious setting titled ‘Web & App Activity,’” the settlement states.

According to the investigation, Google continued to access and store geolocation information of people who turned off their location history, which the plaintiffs say violates the California Invasion of Privacy Act and California’s Constitutional Right to Privacy.

The agreement requires Google to pay $62 million into a “non-revisionary cash fund” that will be used by up to 21 nonprofit organizations for support and defense of the class members’ privacy rights, according to a complaint filed in March.

The fund will also cover $18.6 million in plaintiff attorney fees, unreimbursed expenses of $151,756.23 and awards of $5,000 for each of the three settlement class representatives.

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