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WASHINGTON – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Monday that 40 states have reached a $391.5 million settlement with Google, addressing allegations that the tech giant misled users about the mechanics of location-tracking services.

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According to The New York Times, the states sued Google for continuing to collect the tracking data even after the company convinced users that changing their account settings would prevent the practice.

As per the settlement, which concluded a four-year investigation into Google’s practices from 2014-2020 that the attorneys general said violated the states’ consumer protection laws, Google has vowed to make its location-tracking disclosures more transparent starting in 2023, the newspaper reported.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., told The Wall Street Journal that the allegations were based on practices that it has already changed.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda told the Journal.

Rutledge called the settlement the largest multistate attorney general privacy settlement in U.S. history and confirmed that Arkansas will receive nearly $11.4 million from the arrangement, KATV reported.

“We expect web browsers, like Google, to protect the privacy of its users rather than to exploit their information,” Rutledge said in a prepared statement.

“This historic settlement warns companies that they must clearly disclose when they are tracking location information and provide consumers with easily accessible settings to block the tracking of their location information,” he added.

In turn, Google must:

  • Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”.
  • Make key information about location tracking clearly visible for users.
  • Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.

Google builds detailed user profiles based on collected personal and behavioral data to better target advertising, KATV reported.

“For years, Google prioritized profit over the privacy of people who use Google products and services,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who led the case alongside Nebraska, said in a prepared statement.

“Consumers thought they had turned ‘off’ their location features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers,” she added.

In addition to Oregon, Nevada and Arkansas, the attorneys general from the following seven states assisted with the suit: Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. The final settlement was also joined by Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.