Google Fined $93M for Deceptive Location Tracking

John Lister's picture

Google is to pay $93 million following claims it misled people about location tracking. The company allegedly deceived users about their ability to opt out of tracking. The payment will settle a case brought by California's Attorney General. The terms of the settlement do not require Google to make any admission of wrongdoing or illegal activity.

The case was based on two main allegations. The first is about the way Google "collected, stored and user a person's location data." The claim is that Google continued doing this for people who has turned off a setting labeled "Location History."

It's worth noting that the complaint also suggests Google misled many users into switching the setting on in the first place by not disclosing they were consenting to data being collected constantly rather than just when actively using the Map tool.

Users Misled

The specific claim of wrongdoing is not about the collection and use of the data itself, but rather that Google falsely told people it would not collect the data if the setting was switched off. The complaint says that counts as deceptive behavior, in breach of California law.

It appears this issue comes down to a matter of semantics, with Google continuing to gather location data when the setting was switched off, but through different methods. (Source:

The second allegation is that the collection and use of the data meant Google has also "deceived users about their ability to opt out of advertisements targeted to their location."

Policy Changes Demanded

As well as paying the fine, Google has agreed to make a series of changes to its data handling. This agreement is legally binding.

The changes don't actually involve whether or how Google uses data. Instead they are largely about giving clearer information to users about what location data Google collects, what they use it for, and what practical differences any switches to user settings will make.

Google will also need to carry out an internal review and get documented approval before making any significant changes to the information it gives users about location settings and personalization of advertising. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

If you use Google Maps, do you remember switching "Location Settings" on or off? Do you think you have a good idea what location data your phone collects and who accesses it? Should there be tougher laws on location data collection or should users simply switch to a different device or app if they don't like how a company behaves?

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Unrecognised's picture

That there's nothing in the legal mandate about how the data's to be used, or any choice given to consumers around the gathering of the location data, means 93 million bucks changing hands isn't changing anything for me other than that I'll possibly be less oblivious in future to the fact of my exploitation. It's totally unacceptable to me that I can't turn off location data harvesting. So I'd love to give googol a big middle finger and discontinue using their services.

Unfortunately we've collectively handed google our short and curlies on silver platters, and now they're behaving as has been predicted. Water flows down hill under gravitional force. Money flows uphill under force of greed, and everything and everybody is exploited to that end. They control half the mobile operating systems and software in the world, weighted toward the essential, tied in intimately with daily life. The more indispensable their software gets and the more we integrate it into hardware, infrastructure and architecture, the closer toward mandatory doxing they're been edging.

'More open and connected' is their mantra. Dead right, but NOT IN A GOOD WAY. We're being vivisected. Pinned frogs.