NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee will receive more than $14 million of a $391.5 million settlement from Google, the Tennessee Attorney General has announced.
Attorney General Skrmetti, along with 39 other attorneys general, reached the multistate settlement with Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google Account settings. This is the largest multistate Attorney General privacy settlement in the history of the United States.
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Tennessee’s portion of the settlement will be $14,560,086.13.
“Companies should not collect one bit of data from consumers unless they provide complete transparency about what data is collected and how it will be used,” Skrmetti said. “This is just one example of how our office is working daily to protect consumers from Big Tech, and we’re nowhere close to finished on this issue. We are going to keep fighting for Tennesseans even when it means taking on the most powerful tech companies in the world.”
According to the Attorney General’s office, location data is a key part of Google’s digital advertising business. Google uses the personal and behavioral data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target ads on behalf of its advertising customers.
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 and routines and can be used to infer personal details, the AG’s office said.
The attorneys general of the 40 states opened the Google investigation in 2018 after an Associated Press article revealed Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.” The article reportedly focused on two Google account settings: Location History and Web & App Activity.
Location History is “off” unless a user turns on the setting, but the Web & App Activity setting is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account, including all Android phone users.
As part of the investigation, the attorneys general found Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location-tracking practices since at least 2014. Specifically, Google caused users to be confused about the scope of the Location History setting, the fact that the Web & App Activity setting existed and also collected location information and the extent to which consumers who use Google products and services could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings.
The settlement agreement requires Google to be more transparent about its practices with consumers, including:
- Showing additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off;”
- Making key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (I.e., not hidden); and
- Giving users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.
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.
The attorneys general of Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement negotiations, assisted by Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. The final settlement was also joined by Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.