NJ gets millions from Google in location tracking settlement

TRENTON – New Jersey will receive approximately $17.8 million from Google as part of the regulation of a multi-state investigation into whether the search engine company misled consumers about how it collects and uses location data.

In total, Google will pay $391.5 million to 40 states in what is the largest multi-state secrecy agreement ever with state attorneys general.

Google uses location data to sell digital advertisements, as part of the creation of user profiles for targeted advertisements.

But states said that by tracking consumers’ locations using device details such as their GPS, cell tower, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals, Google can track a consumer’s location. outside and inside buildings, exposing his identity and routines and deducing personal details. about them.

Attachment-News quote Platkin Google

“Digital platforms such as Google cannot claim to provide privacy controls to users, then hijack and ignore those controls to collect and sell data to advertisers against users’ express wishes and for great profit.” said state attorney general Matthew Platkin.

“When online platforms violate consumers’ right to privacy, they put their users at risk,” Platkin said. “This settlement holds Google accountable for its misleading conduct and requires the company to make meaningful changes to its business practices to ensure that consumers’ privacy rights are upheld and protected.”

States began investigating Google after a 2018 article by the Associated Press Detailed that even when the “Location History” account setting is turned off, which is its default, a separate “Web and App Activity” setting is automatically turned on when creating a Google Account.

The states allege that Google has violated consumer protection laws since at least 2014 by misleading consumers about whether their location information was collected and how to limit it.

“When an online company promises consumer privacy, we expect them to deliver on that promise,” said Cari Fais, acting director of the state’s Consumer Affairs Division. “Google’s privacy controls have not prevented Google from collecting data regardless of the choices consumers make, a clear and blatant violation of their own business model and our consumer protection laws.”

The state has not specified what it will do with its share of the settlement. Some may go towards attorney fees and the cost of the investigation or a consumer protection law enforcement fund, although it is not limited to these options.

Google agreed:

  • Show additional information to users each time they enable or disable an account setting and make these account controls more user-friendly
  • Clearly and visibly disclose location tracking information to users
  • Create an improved “Location Technologies” web page where users can get details about location data collected by Google and how it is used
  • Limit how it uses and stores certain types of location information

The attorney general’s office said New Jersey was among 10 states that led the negotiations that settled the case.

The states that did not participate in the settlement were Arizona, California, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Arizona filed the state’s first lawsuit against Google in 2020. This case was settled last month for $85 million.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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