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California: AG announces $93M settlement with Google regarding its location privacy practices

The California Attorney General (AG), Rob Bonta, announced, on September 14, 2023, that it had reached a $93 million settlement with Google LLC resolving allegations regarding Google's collection, use, and retention of consumers' geolocation in violation of the Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law.

Background to the case

In particular, the AG noted that the allegations resulted from a multi-year investigation by the California Department of Justice.

Findings of the AG

Following its investigation, the AG determined that Google was deceiving users by collecting, storing, and using their location data for consumer profiling and advertising purposes without informed consent. The AG explained that Google falsely told users that if they turned off the 'Location History' setting, then Google would not store their location data. However, the AG explained that even when a user turned Location History off, Google continued to collect and store that user's location data through other sources. The AG also alleged that Google deceived users about their ability to opt out of advertisements targeted to their location.

Outcomes

Further to the above, the AG highlighted that it had reached a settlement that requires Google to pay $93 million in penalties and be subject to a number of injunctive measures including requiring that Google:

  • show additional information to users when enabling location-related account settings;
  • provide more transparency about location tracking;
  • provide users with detailed information about the location data that Google collects and how it is used through a 'location technologies' webpage;
  • disclose to users that their location information may be used for ad personalization;
  • disclose to users before using location history data to build ad-targeting profiles for users; and
  • obtain review by Google's internal privacy working group and document approval for all material changes to location-setting and ad personalization disclosures that will have a material impact on privacy.

You can read the press release here, the complaint here, and the settlement here.