Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced recently that 40 states have reached a $391.5 million settlement with Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google account settings. Arkansas will receive $11,368,923.47 from the settlement. This is the largest multistate Attorney General privacy settlement in U.S. history; Arkansas serves on the executive committee.

“We expect web browsers, like Google, to protect the privacy of its users rather than to exploit their information,” said Rutledge. “This historic settlement warns companies that they must clearly disclose when they are tracking location information and provide consumers with easily accessible settings to block the tracking of their location information.”

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

The attorneys general opened the Google 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.

Location History is off unless a user turns on the setting, but 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 consumers 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 practices. 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 Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how its used at an enhanced Location Technologies webpage.

The settlement also limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires Google account controls to be 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, Connecticut, 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.

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