Arkansas to Get $11M in Settlement With Google Over Tracking

Arkansas to Get $11M in Settlement With Google Over Tracking
Leslie Rutledge (Arkansas AG's Office)

Arkansas will get $11.4 million through a settlement Google has reached with attorneys general in 40 states over the search giant's location tracking practices.

In a news release, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the settlement is the largest multistate attorney general privacy settlement in U.S history. In all, Google has agreed to pay $391.5 million to the states.

The states' investigation was sparked by a 2018 Associated Press story, which found that Google continued to track people's location data even after they opted out of such tracking by disabling a feature the company called “location history."

The attorneys general called the settlement a historic win for consumers.

"We expect web browsers, like Google, to protect the privacy of its users rather than to exploit their information," Rutledge said in a news release. "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."

Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago," company spokesperson Jose Castaneda said.

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet — which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

In its 2018 story, The AP reported that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store users' location data even if they've used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so. Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request.

Storing such data carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects.

The attorneys general of Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement negotiations, assisted by Arkansas, 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.