Google is always tracking its users through location access. Whether it is to improve the accuracy of its maps and location-based services, develop new products and features, or even show more relevant ads- you think and talk about a product you are planning to buy, and within minutes, you will see ads for that product all over your internet- or others. Google tracks its users for a variety of reasons. However, Google has always made it clear that it does not track location if users disable tracking. But it seems like this is not the case.
In a recent lawsuit filed against Google, the company was accused of misleading consumers about how and when their location information was being tracked and stored. And as part of the settlement, Google will pay $93 million, which is roughly Rs 7,000 crore, reports The Guardian.
The settlement follows a lawsuit filed by California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, which alleged that the company had deceived consumers by giving them a false impression of having greater control over their location data. This substantial payout is the result of a lengthy investigation into the tech giant’s data handling practices.
“Our investigation revealed that Google was telling its users one thing – that it would no longer track their location once they opted out – but doing the opposite and continuing to track its users’ movements for its own commercial gain,” Bonta said in a statement to Guardian. “That’s unacceptable, and we’re holding Google accountable.”
Reportedly, the allegations were based on a significant difference between how Google said it managed user location data and how the Attorney General’s office claims it actually managed it. It alleged that Google allowed users to disable their “location history” and assured them that if they did so, the company wouldn’t track their whereabouts. However, according to the Attorney General, Google still gathered and saved this data from other sources, like a user’s “web and app activity” tracker, which is automatically enabled. Additionally the tech giant was accused for misleading users regarding their ability to avoid location-targeted advertisements.
Although Google is not admitting to the allegations, the company has agreed to settle and has undertaken various additional obligations, alongside the $93 million payment. These commitments include improving transparency regarding its location tracking practices, giving users prior notifications before using location data to build targeted ad profiles, and seeking approval from Google’s internal privacy working group before implementing any substantial privacy-related alterations.
José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, told the Guardian: “Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this matter, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” notes Google spokesperson.
Notably, Google is not the only one which has faced allegations of using users’ data without consent. Earlier this year, Meta, led by Mark Zuckerberg, found itself in a similar situation, being ordered to pay a fine of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and cease the transfer of data collected from Facebook users in Europe to the United States. This marked a significant ruling against the social media giant for violating European Union data protection regulations.
Reported by The New York Times, the regulators said Meta did not follow a 2020 EU court ruling that said Facebook data sent to the US didn’t have enough protection from American intelligence agencies.