Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, R, and Google have entered into an $85 million settlement to end a lawsuit that claimed Google deceptively and unfairly obtained user’s location information in order to sell advertisements. Brnovich’s claim stated Google surreptitiously obtained users data even after they turned off their “location history” in settings.
“I am proud of this historic settlement that proves no entity, not even big tech companies, is above the law,” the attorney general said when announcing the settlement.
The investigation began in 2018 after an article in the Associated Press revealed Google tracks users movements, even when they explicitly tell it not to. The AP conducted an extensive investigation that included a Princeton researcher driving around New Jersey for several days with their location settings in the off position, yet the device could still pinpoint and store their location. Princeton’s computer science team then confirmed the results after reviewing the phone’s data.
Brnovich’s office filed the lawsuit in 2020 seeking compensation. Brnovich’s office said Google got around location settings being turned off by using web and app activity and leading users to believe it had nothing to do with tracking their location. The Arizona attorney general said Google makes it exceedingly difficult for users to understand what the company is doing with their private data.
“It’s nearly impossible to stop Google from tracking your movements without your knowledge or consent. This is contrary to the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act,” Brnovich stated at the time the lawsuit was filed.
Brnovich said Google was motivated by profit. The location information is used to sell targeted advertisements in specific locations. In 2019 while the investigation was ongoing, Google made $135 billion on ad revenue, 80% of its $161 billion total.
The state’s general fund will receive $77,250,000 to be spent at the discretion of the Arizona Legislature on education, broadband and internet privacy. The attorney general’s office will give $5 million to law schools that provide continuing legal education courses for its staff and judges on consumer protection issues.