TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Together with 39 other states, Florida investigations into Google’s privacy-violating location tracking practices have resulted in a $390 million agreement between the states and the tech giant. Google also must change some of its privacy practices.
“Big Tech is watching us, but Silicon Valley needs to know that we are watching them too, and if they violate our consumer protection laws, we will take strong action to protect our citizens. This is a historic case for the privacy of Americans and the protection of consumers nationwide, and I am proud our office helped lead this massive, nationwide investigation,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement.
It was after an Associated Press article in 2018 that the attorney generals initiated an investigation. The article revealed the company records users’ movements, even when explicitly told not to. The article focused on two account settings: Location History and Web & App Activity. Location History is turned off by default, but Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically turned on when users set up a Google account, including for all Android phone users.
FUNDS NOT GOING TO VICTIMS
According to the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the funds secured through the agreement – which in legal terms is neither a judgment nor a settlement – will not be distributed to consumers who have been victims of Google’s invasive practices:
“Ultimately, the penalties and the provisions announced allow for further action in the future if the company violates any of the terms secured,” Ashley Moody’s press secretary Kylie Mason stated in an email to The Florida Standard.
She added: “Today’s announced agreement is one of many Florida is leading against Google. Stricter provisions and disclosures for location services is extremely important, and this agreement will provide ongoing injunctive relief against that practice.”
According to the agreement, Google agreed to provisions designed to give consumers more transparency into the company’s practices, including showing additional information whenever account settings are turned on or off; making key information about location tracking unavoidable, and creating an enhanced Location Technologies webpage where users can get detailed information about the type of location data Google collects and how it’s used.