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The tech giant has agreed to pay $391.5 million to 40 US states.

This week, Google agreed to settle the largest-ever privacy lawsuit in history, agreeing to pay over 390 million dollars in a suit that was brought by attorneys general (AGs) in 40 US states. Ellen Rosenblum, the AG for the State of Oregon, led the lawsuit and issued a press release on Monday announcing the legal victory.

“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy”, Rosenblum said. “They have been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they had turned off their location tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers.”

Location data is a key part of Google’s digital advertising business. Google uses the personal data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target ads. The Oregon AG’s office claims that location data “is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects”.

Even a limited amount of location data can expose a person’s identity. Routines can be used to infer personal details, the office added.

What Google has to do now

The settlement requires Google to be more transparent about its practices. In a ‘Public Policy’ announcement issued on Monday, Google explained that it will now:

  • Add additional disclosures to their activity controls and Data & Privacy pages. They will also create a single, comprehensive information hub that highlights key location settings to help people make informed choices about their data.
  • Provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow.
  • Give users setting up new accounts a more detailed explanation of what Web & App Activity is, what information it includes, and how it helps their Google experience.

Google spun the decision in a positive manner, describing the settlement as just “another step along the path of giving more meaningful choices and minimizing data collection while providing more helpful services”.