Connecticut will get millions from Google

PAUL HUIGHES Republican-American

Nov 14, 2022

HARTFORD — Attorney General William Tong announced Monday that Connecticut is due to receive $6.5 million from a $391.5 million settlement between Google and 39 states over its location tracking practices.

The attorney general’s office said this is the largest multistate privacy settlement in U.S. history.

“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. Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law,” Tong said in a statement

Tong and Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull have scheduled a 1 p.m news conference to discuss the settlement Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google Account settings

Location data is a key part of Google’s digital advertising business and among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, the attorney general’s office said. Even a limited amount of location data can expose a person’s identity and routines and be used to infer personal details. Google uses this data to build detailed user profiles and target ads to consumers on behalf of its advertising customers.

The multistate investigation following a 2018 Associated Press article that revealed Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.” The article focused on two Google account settings: Location History and Web & App Activity. While Location History is “off” by default and must be enabled by a user, Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account, including all Android phone users.

The attorneys general found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014.

Specifically, Google misled users about the scope of the Location History setting, the fact that the Web & App Activity setting existed and also collected location information, and the extent to which consumers who use Google products and services could limit Google’s location tracking by adjusting their account and device settings.

The settlement requires Google to be more transparent with consumers about its location tracking practices. In particular, Google must:

Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”
Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and
Maintain a dedicated webpage that provides users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how that data is used.
The settlement also limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires Google to make its account controls more user-friendly.

The attorneys general of Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement negotiations, assisted by Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The final settlement was also joined by Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.