A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Attorney General joins $391.5 million multi-state settlement with Google over location tracking

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office has joined a coalition of 40 attorneys general in a historic $391.5 million multistate settlement with Google over its location tracking practices and account settings. This is the largest multistate privacy settlement reached by a coalition of attorneys general in the history of the United States. Kentucky will receive $7,282,184.49 million from the settlement.

“Misleading customers about the collection and use of their personal location tracking information is a violation of Kentucky’s consumer protection laws,” said Attorney General Cameron. “This historic settlement allocates over $7.2 million to Kentucky and requires Google to adopt business practices that respect the privacy rights of their customers.”

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron

Location data is a key part of Google’s digital advertising business. Google uses the personal and behavioral data collected from users to build detailed profiles and to target users with ads on behalf of its advertising clients. Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable piece of personal information Google collects. Even a limited amount of location data can expose a person’s identity and routines and can be used to infer personal details.

The attorneys general opened the Google investigation following a 2018 Associated Press article that revealed Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.” The article focused on two Google account settings: Location History and Web & App Activity. Location History is “off” unless a user turns on the setting, but Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account, including all Android phone users.

During their investigation, the attorneys general found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014.

The settlement requires Google to be more transparent with consumers about its location tracking settings. Under the settlement Google must:

• Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”.

• Make key information about location tracking clearly visible.

• Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used.

The settlement also limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires Google account controls to be more user-friendly.

Attorney General Cameron joined attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin in the settlement.

To view the settlement, visit www.ag.ky.gov.

Kentucky Attorney General’s Office

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