$391.5m payout

Google pays record settlement over privacy case

Google has been told to be more transparent (pic: Solen Feyissa)

Google is paying $391.5m (£330m) to settle the biggest privacy-related case in US history.

The search engine giant faced a number of allegations about how it tracked the whereabouts of users who opted out of location services on their devices.

Google has been told that it must be transparent about location tracking and inform users about the data it collects.

The investigation and settlement is a sign of mounting legal issues for the tech giant from state attorneys general who have targeted the firm’s user tracking practices in recent months.

A consumer’s location is key to helping an advertiser make their adverts more relevant and location services help Google generate $200bn in annual advertising revenue.

Google had revenue of $111 billion from advertising in the first half of this year, more than any other seller of online ads.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who led the case alongside Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, said: “For years Google has prioritised profit over its users’ privacy. It has 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.”

The attorneys general said Google had been misleading consumers about location tracking since at least 2014, breaking state consumer protection laws.

The company has been told to significantly improve user controls and the way it discloses location tracking, starting from 2023.

Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said: “Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago.”

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