Google has agreed to hand over $391.5 million to put a stop to an investigation that spanned 40 states and considered whether the company was tracking people without their knowledge across its services including Google Maps.
The investigation, stemming from a 2018 report, said that Google was tracking the location of people using iPhones as well as Android phones between 2014 and 2019 despite giving the impression that all tracking had been disabled.
The Verge reports that the settlement also means that Google must now alert users when location tracking is enabled while also making it clear how people can disable the feature from next year.
Despite handing over the cash, Google's blog post notes that the investigation was looking into "outdated product policies" that have already been health with. That doesn't mean that it won't be making changes — Google says that it will be making it more obvious to users that their location data is being collected. A new hub “highlights key location settings to help people make informed choices about their data," the company says.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum accused Google of prioritizing "profit over their users’ privacy" in a statement on the subject yesterday.
This isn't the first time that Google has been forced to cough up money in relation to location tracking. Just last month the company paid $85 million to the state of Arizona over similar allegations. In that instance, it was claimed that Google was tricking people into thinking that location tracking was disabled.
While Apple often does its best to tell potential customers that privacy is the best iPhone feature of all, it's important to note that this Google settlement includes the company's apps installed on Apple's phones. Perhaps driving home the point that Apple's App Store can only protect its users' privacy from so much.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.