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Google settles suit after tracking location when you’d said ‘no’

Google has reportedly paid almost $400 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging the company tracked user locations, even when they had made efforts to turn the feature off.

The reported $391.5m settlement (via New York Times) is almost five years in the making and comes after an Associated Press investigation found that Google continued following users GPS locations, even when users had explicitly opted out.

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The group of attorneys general from 40 US states argued that Google had misled users on iOS and Android. Even when users paused the “Location History” feature on their devices, Google continued to silently track their movements in the background. The suit alleged Google would then sell the data to advertisers.

Google has published a blog on Monday confirming a settlement, but not the amount. The company said the case pertained to “outdated product policies that we changed years ago”. Google also says “we will be making updates in the coming months to provide even greater controls and transparency over location data.”

Google says those updates include the simplified deletion of location data, which Google says “allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow. We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

Google says it is revamping its user information hubs to ensure users know that location data can actually be useful for them too, while the company is also making it easier to make “informed choices” about their data.

Lastly, when you set up a new account, Google will provide more detailed information on what users are actually signing up for. “Today’s settlement is another step along the path of giving more meaningful choices and minimizing data collection while providing more helpful services,” the company adds in the blog post.

In response to the settlement, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said (via The Verge): “For years Google has prioritised profit over their users’ privacy. 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.”

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