Washington (AFP) – Google on Monday agreed to settle a landmark privacy case with 40 US states over allegations that the search engine giant misled users into believing their devices had location tracking turned off.
The statement said it is the largest multi-state privacy settlement in US history set by a government agency and includes a binding commitment to improve Google’s disclosures.
“Digital platforms like Google cannot claim to provide privacy controls to users and then ignore those controls to collect and sell data to advertisers against users’ express wishes — and at great profit,” said New Jersey’s attorney general. Matthew Platkin in a statement. .
The rare joint lawsuit by 40 states grew out of impatience over the federal government’s failure to crack down on big tech amid legislative gridlock in Washington.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers disagree over what national internet privacy rules should look like, and tech companies are lobbying fiercely to limit their potential influence.
US tech giants have faced tougher regulations in Europe since 2018, with Google, Amazon and others hit with hefty fines for privacy breaches.
The US case began after the Associated Press published an article in 2018 alleging that Google was tracking users even if they opted out of the practice.
Other states involved included Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Particularly flawed in their case was evidence that users continued to be tracked when they turned off the location history option on their phones, as tracking continued through a separate setting for web and app activity.
Google said in a statement that the allegations are based on product features that are no longer relevant.
“In line with the improvements we’ve made over the years, we’ve closed this investigation, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” the company said.
Under the agreement, Google will provide more detailed information about activity tracking.
© 2022 AFP