Connecticut Attorney General William Tong has announced that in conjunction with 39 other attorneys general, Connecticut has reached a $391.5 million multistate settlement regarding Google’s location tracking policy. Connecticut will receive more than $6.5 million from the settlement, which is the largest multistate privacy settlement in United States history.
The multistate legal challenge regarded Google’s location tracking practices relating to Google Account settings, according to the press release. Attorney General Tong said that Google had continued to collect personal information even after users told Google not to.
“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt-out of tracking,” Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”
Attorney General Tong followed up by saying he believes users should have greater control over how their data is used.
“People deserve to have greater control over — and understanding of — how their data is being used. My office has been at the forefront of that effort, and we will continue to take on big tech as we move to enforce Connecticut’s new consumer privacy law,” Tong stated.
“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt-out of tracking.”William Tong, Connecticut Attorney General
In May 2022, the Connecticut General Assembly passed the Connecticut Data Privacy Act. According to the press release, this new law “provides Connecticut consumers baseline privacy rights, including the right to access, delete, and stop the sale of their data. It also requires companies to be transparent about how they use and secure data, as well as obtain consumer consent before collecting certain categories of sensitive information — including precise location data.”
Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull says that companies have an obligation to make their data sharing practices more transparent.
“Consumers have a right to know if and how their data is being used,” said Seagull. “Companies like Google have a duty to be transparent in their data collection and advertising practices, and clearly give consumers the option to opt out of data sharing, including location tracking.”
The investigation into Google was opened after an Associated Press article from 2018 revealed that Google still collected user data even when instructed not to by the user. Google uses user collected data to target advertisements and personalize content towards the user.
“Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”William Tong, Connecticut Attorney General
According to the settlement, the attorneys general found that Google misled consumers about its data collection processes since 2014. “Specifically, Google misled users about the scope of the Location History setting, the fact that the Web & App Activity setting existed and also collected location information, and the extent to which consumers who use Google products and services could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings,” the press release states.
According to the settlement, Google now has to show more information to users when they turn a location-related account settings “on” or “off”. Google is now under pressure to make key information about location tracking not hidden from the user, while also maintaining dedicated web pages providing users with detailed information about the types of location data they collect and how it is used.
Google is also now limited in the use and storage of certain types of location information and is required to make its account controls more user-friendly, according to the press release. With privacy being a high-profile right, Google is not getting off with a slap on the wrist.