Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich had earlier investigated Google for misrepresenting the ways in which it collects and uses consumers’ location data.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has reached a settlement with Google, which Phoenix had claimed tracked consumers’ locations through “unfair and deceptive practices.”
According to USA Today, Brnovich began investigating Google after The Associated Press released an article accusing the search engine and advertising behemoth of misleading customers.
Google, wrote The Associated Press, had purportedly misrepresented the ways in which it not only tracks consumers’ location histories but uses its findings for advertising purposes.
Brnovich filed his initial lawsuit against Google in 2020, accusing the company of misusing consumers’ location to increase its advertising revenues.
In his complaint, Brnovich said that Google’s location-usage policies were opaque.
Additionally, the attorney general’s office said that Google did not give consumers any easily accessible option to opt-out of location tracking.
Even when users turned off their location history through their phone or browser settings, Brnovich said, Google continued tracking their physical location through other means, including its Web & App Activity feature.
“The tactics Google deploys to surveil its users’ locations—including users in Arizona—include willfully deceptive and unfair practices within the meaning of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act,” Brnovich wrote in his lawsuit.
The Arizona Mirror notes that Brnovich’s lawsuit includes as evidence internal Google communications—emails and messages showing that the company’s own security engineers had concerns about the myriad of ways in which Google could track its users.
“Speaking as a user, WTF? More specifically I **thought** I had location tracking turned off on my phone,” an unnamed software engineer wrote in a Google team chat. “So our messaging around this is enough to confuse a privacy focused [Google software engineer]. That’s not good.”
Google will now pay an estimated $85 million to settle Brnovich’s lawsuit.
“I am proud of this historic settlement that proves no entity, not even big tech companies, is above the law,” Brnovich said in a statement.
Most of the settlement money, says USA Today, will be allocated to the state’s general fund; it can be used for assorted purposes after legislative appropriation.
However, $5 million will be directed toward the attorney general’s various education programs.
In a separate statement, Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said that, “This case is based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago.”
“We provide straightforward controls and auto delete options for location data, and are always working to minimize the data we collect,” Castañeda said. “We are pleased to have this matter resolved and will continue to focus our attention on providing useful products for our users.”