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Google has agreed to pay a total of $29.5 million to settle two separate lawsuits filed by Indiana and Washington, D.C. regarding its misleading location tracking practices.
The search and advertising behemoth has been ordered to pay $9.5 million to the District of Columbia and $20 million to Indiana after both states sued the company on allegations that it tracked users' locations without their permission.
The agreement adds to the $391.5 million that Google already accepted to pay across 40 other states in response to claims of a similar nature. Two further location-tracking complaints against the business are still pending in Texas and Washington.
Read more about this topic on the Economic Times website.
The lawsuits came in response to discoveries that surfaced in 2018 that the internet provider was still using a feature called Web & App Activity to monitor users' whereabouts on Android and iOS even when Location History settings were off.
"We sued because Google made it nearly impossible for users to stop their location from being tracked. Now, thanks to this settlement, Google must also make clear to consumers how their location data is collected, stored, and used," tweeted DC Attorney General Karl Racine.
Google was also accused of using dark patterns, which are design choices intended to trick users into performing actions that breach their privacy and overshare information without their knowledge or consent.
According to a news release from Indiana state last week, "Google uses location data collected from Indiana consumers to build detailed user profiles and target ads, but Google has deceived and misled users about its practices since at least 2014”.
Recently, a netizen discovered that Google modified its domain architecture to group all of its services under a single parent domain.
According to the settlement, the tech giant must inform users who have enabled Location History and Web & App Activity whether location data is being collected and provide instructions on how to turn off the settings and erase the data.
Google also must refrain from disclosing users' exact locations to third-party marketers without their permission and have a web page that lists all the types and sources of location data it collects.
Additionally, it must immediately destroy any location data obtained from devices or from IP addresses in Web & App Activity after receiving it.
Google claimed in a blog post that the case was founded on "outdated product policies" that the business had already updated.
A new toggle will enable users to turn off and delete their location history in one simple move as well as their site and app activity, according to Google. It also said that it will start offering more specific information about the data it collects during the account registration process.
"Given the vast level of tracking and surveillance that technology companies can embed into their widely used products, it is only fair that consumers be informed of how important user data, including information about their every move, is gathered, tracked, and utilized by these companies," D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said.
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