The states of Indiana and the District of Columbia in the U.S. have settled claims against Google for its location monitoring tactics, with Google agreeing to pay a total of $29.5 million to resolve the cases. The District of Columbia and Indiana sued them over allegations that they tracked users’ whereabouts without permission. The search and internet giant is ordered to pay $9.5 million to the District of Columbia and $20 million to Indiana, respectively.
In a statement released last week, the state of Indiana alleged that “Google uses location data gathered from Indiana consumers to construct extensive user profiles and target ads,” but that “Google has deceived and misled users about its methods since at least 2014.”
Previous Location Tracking Lawsuits Against Google
Last month, Google settled identical claims with 40 states for $391.5 million. Two further complaints related to location monitoring were filed against the firm in Texas and Washington. In the location privacy settlement, the state attorneys general said that Google misled customers into thinking that the firm would stop collecting their geolocation data if they disabled location tracking services.
In spite of this, the states claim that Google has continued to collect and store an intricate history of users’ travels through its wide variety of other services, including search, maps, and apps that link to Wi-Fi and cellular phone towers.
Lawsuits were filed after it was discovered in 2018 that the internet giant tracked Android and iOS users’ locations through a Web & App Activity feature even after users had disabled the Location History option. The lawsuit seeks to certify two classes: iPhone users and Android users. Millions of people may be affected by this, including those who have disabled Location History on their iPhone or Android device yet are still being followed by Google.
Users Permission Should be Important in Tracking
Dark patterns used to describe Google’s alleged design decisions allude to the practice of tricking people into taking activities that compromise their privacy and oversharing information without their knowledge or consent. The business must inform customers whose settings permit location data collection (Location History and Web & App Activity). Whether or not such data is being collected and providing instructions for how to do so are based on the laws of the settlement.
In addition to having a page that details the many kinds and sources of location data it collects, Google must also refrain from giving out users’ precise locations to third-party advertisers without their consent. Also, “device or from IP addresses in Web & App Activity after 30 days” of collection, any location data must be deleted automatically.
In a November 2022 blog post, the Mountain View, California-based firm called attention to the fact that the lawsuits are founded on “outdated product policies.” Where it announced a series of privacy and transparency improvements that enable users to automatically delete location data associated with their accounts.
Furthermore, by establishing an information portal and a new toggle to disable Location History and Web & App Activity settings and remove historical data in “one simple flow,” Google has announced that it would begin offering more “detailed” information regarding the Web & App Activity control.
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine argued that consumers should be aware and self-conscious of the usefulness of user data, such as information about their every move being gathered, tracked, and used by a technology company. This is due to the vast level of tracking and surveillance that these tech companies can incorporate into their widely used products.
Various Means Google Tracks You
- Activity Controls on the Web: Google account online serves as the best location to begin managing how Google tracks your activity. If you are logged into Google on your computer, clicking that link will take you straight there. Here they have all the information needed about you. When you search for something on Google, your search query and IP address are recorded.
- Google Maps: When you use Google Maps, your location and movement are tracked and stored.
- Web & App Activity: To begin, there is your “Web & App Activity,” which includes, as the name suggests, everything you do while logged into Chrome when signed into Google Search.
- Location History: Just as the name suggests, they have your information while signing into any of Google’s apps. Once again, clicking the link labeled “Manage activity” will take you to a page where you can view and change your Google data. This time, though, the information will be shown graphically on a map, with small red pins indicating the locations you’ve visited.
- Voice and Audio Interactions: All the things you’ve asked Google Assistant to do, either on your phone or through a smart speaker, are recorded here. With the Manage activity button, you can review your past conversations and even listen to your voice. Yet another means for you to be tracked.
- YouTube Search History and YouTube Watch History: This cover Google’s video platform, with names that give them away. Also, they can monitor you via this means. They help to build more viewers’ watch interest through special algorithms.
- Location: Use the menu item “Location” to disable all location services on your Android device. For granular control, you can navigate to Apps & alerts > Advanced > App permissions. With this, you get to control the apps that have access to your location, camera, contacts, and more from this screen.
- Google Apps: While Google primarily gathers location data, the company also follows you around through its programs like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Maps, just like it does on the web.
- Ads: Ads that are specifically tailored to your interests, logging in is required. Your age and gender are displayed first, followed by a long list of suggestions Google has made about what you might be interested in. You can remove any of these suggestions by clicking on them and selecting the Turn off option.
- Google Ads on Websites: When you visit a website that displays Google Ads, your IP address and other information about your device and browser may be collected by Google.
Opening an incognito window in Chrome on mobile, or switching to a different browser, will have the same effect as doing so on a desktop computer. It will temporarily prevent Google from tracking your browsing and search activity. If you don’t want Google to track your movements, turning your phone off can also be another alternative.
Google has settled two claims regarding the company’s location monitoring practices for a total of $29.5 million. According to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R), his state and Washington, D.C. has filed a lawsuit against Google alleging that the corporation has been using consumer location data to develop detailed user profiles and targeted ads while misleading customers about these activities since at least 2014. Rokita said in a statement released on Thursday that Google would pay Indiana $20 million to end the state’s lawsuit against the firm for its “deceptive location monitoring tactics.”