Iowa to receive $6.17 million in Google location tracking settlement

Iowa has reached a $6.17 million agreement with Google as part of a multistate settlement, the state’s attorney general office said in a statement Nov. 14.

The settlement is the largest multi-state attorney general privacy settlement in U.S. history. The $6.17 million figure is a fraction of the larger $391.5 million settlement Google will pay to all 40 implicated states combined.

State attorney generals began investigating Google in 2018 after an Associated Press report found Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.”

“When consumers make the decision to not share location data on their devices, they should be able to trust that a company will no longer track their every move,” outgoing Attorney General Tom Miller said. “That wasn’t the case when it comes to Google’s tracking practices. This settlement makes it clear that companies must be transparent in how they track customers and abide by state and federal privacy laws.”

As detailed in the settlement, the attorneys general determined Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014.

“Specifically, Google caused users to be confused 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 release said.

The AP report found that the Web & App Activity setting was automatically “on” when users would make a Google account, including Android phone users.

According to the release, the new settlement requires Google to:

  • 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).
  • Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.
  • Limit Google’s use of storage of certain types of location information
  • Requires Google account controls to be user-friendly

Iowa reached agreements with CVS, Walgreens, Experian and T-Mobile in separate settlements earlier this year. Those settlements concerned the nationwide opiod crisis and data breaches.