Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement with 40 states in America for tracking users.
The investigation was kicked off by a 2018 Associated Press story, which found that Google continued to track people’s location data even after they opted out by disabling ‘location history’.
The settlement proves that we cannot trust what the tech giants tell us and is the largest multistate settlement in U.S history dealing with privacy.
As concerns over privacy and surveillance by tech companies increase, the landmark case is another blow for the tech giants that has led to an increase in sign-ups for open source, surveillance-free alternatives, like Open Web Systems.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement. “Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt-out of tracking.”
Location tracking is just one of the ways that Google and other tech giants collect data on individuals to help them sell adverts to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. Data-gathering generates more than $200 billion in advertising revenue for Google every year.
In its 2018 story, The AP reported that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store users’ location data even if they’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so. Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request.
Location tracking affects some 2 billion users of phones that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users that rely on Google for maps or search.
The attorneys general who investigated Google said a key part of the company’s digital advertising business is location data, which they called the most sensitive and valuable personal data the company collects. Even a small amount of location data can reveal a person’s identity and routines, they said.
The attorneys general said Google misled users about its location tracking practices since at least 2014, violating state consumer protection laws.
The shadowy surveillance brought to light by The AP troubled even some Google engineers, who recognized the company might be confronting a massive legal headache after the story was published, according to internal documents that have subsequently surfaced in consumer-fraud lawsuits.
If you value your privacy, there has never been a stronger reason to switch to Open Web Systems.