Forty Attorneys General v. Google: US $391.5M Settlement for Illegal Collection of User Location Data – IP/IT & Communications

Lack of transparency and respect for users’ choices from Google

Google collected and stored its users’ geolocation data, despite the latter’s denial, leading forty states to open an investigation. In August 2014, the Associated Press publishes an article on how Google tracks its users’ movements (Google tracks your movements, like it or not), in which it is revealed that Google collects and stores geolocation data of its users without their consent. The article says this affects two billion users using Android, and hundreds of millions using Apple to access map or search services. However, Google clearly indicated on the support page that it was possible to disable the geolocation history and that by doing so, this data was no longer saved. A very beautiful showcase but misleading, the deactivation was actually possible but not followed by effect.

The journalistic investigation published by the Associated Press does not go unnoticed, as several prosecutors from various states award Google with illegal collection of user location data for the period from 2014 to 2019 and demand not only the cessation of this practice, but also “generated restitution revenue through the collection and use of geolocation data as well as fines” (Google accused by several US states of collecting data without permission, Le Monde with AFP, The world25 January 2022). The collection and storage of this data allowed Google allegedly to improve its services, but also, and not surprisingly, to generate targeted advertising: advertisers can target their ads according to a precise location of the Internet user; the smaller the area, the higher the price. Questions related to the economics of digital giants are not new, as the economic value of personal data is often mentioned, and Google’s practices are part of this phenomenon, which Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” (The Age of surveillance capitalism…

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