PRESS RELEASE: CONSUMER SECURITY OFFICE ANNOUNCES MULTI-STATE HISTORICAL SETTLEMENT OF $391.5 MILLION WITH GOOGLE ON LOCATION TRACKING PRACTICES
Posted on November 14, 2022 in Current Department News, Newsroom
HONOLULU – The Department of Consumer Protection for the State of Hawaii announced today that Hawaii along with 39 other US states has reached a $391.5 million settlement with Google over its location tracking practices related to Google account settings. This is the largest multi-state privacy comparison in US history. Hawaii will receive $4,705,227 from the settlement.
“This historic comparison holds Google responsible for misleading consumers into a false sense of security about its privacy settings. Instead of respecting consumers’ expressed wishes regarding their privacy preferences, it used the trust they had placed in it for its own financial gain,” said Stephen Levins, Executive Director of the Office for Consumer Protection.
Location data is an important part of Google’s digital advertising business. Google uses the collected personal and behavioral data to create detailed user profiles and to serve ads on behalf of its advertisers. Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal data that Google collects. Even a limited amount of location data can reveal an individual’s identity and routines and can be used to infer personal details.
States initiated the Google investigation after a 2018 Associated Press Article revealing that Google “records your movements even if you specifically tell it not to”. The article focused on two Google account settings: location history and web and app activity. Location history is “off” unless a user turns the setting on, but web and app activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account, including all Android users. phones. As detailed in the settlement, the states found that Google has violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014. Web and app activity settings and location information were also collected, as well as the extent , in which consumers using Google products and services could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings.
The settlement requires Google to be more transparent with consumers about its practices. Google must:
- Displaying additional information to users when they turn “on” or “off” a location-based account setting;
- Make important location tracking information unavoidable (i.e. not hidden) to users; and
- Provide users with detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it is used on an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.
The comparison also limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires more user-friendly Google account controls.
The Attorneys General of Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement hearings, assisted by the Attorneys General of Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North also joined the final settlement Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.
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Department of Trade and Consumer Protection
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: (808) 586-7582