Google Pays $9.5 Million in Washington DC Localization Lawsuit

Google pulls out the checkbook again to settle a lawsuit: $9.5 million and many changes to localization.

Google agreed to pay $9.5 million to reach a settlement in a lawsuit led by Washington DC Attorney General Karl Racine, who a few months ago accused the company of “deceiving users and violating their privacy”. Google has also agreed to change some of its practices, mainly regarding informing users about the collection, storage and use of their location data.

Google brings out the checkbook again to settle a lawsuit

“Google makes consumers believe they have control over whether Google collects and stores information about their location and how that information is used,” the plaintiff explained in a lawsuit filed last January. “In reality, consumers using Google products cannot prevent Google from collecting, storing and profiting from their location.”

Karl Racine’s office also accused Google of using “dark patterns,” id is design choices designed to hide capabilities and features that are not beneficial to the business. Specifically, the attorney general’s office alleges that Google repeatedly instructed users to enable location tracking in certain apps and informed them that certain features would not function normally if location was not enabled. Karl Racine and his team discovered that location data wasn’t even necessary for the app in question. According to them, Google has made it “impossible for users to refuse to be geolocated in this way.”

This $9.5 million payment is pretty paltry for Google. Last quarter, it took just 20 minutes for its parent company, Alphabet, to generate such revenue. The changes that the company will make as part of this agreement may be more significant.

$9.5 million and lots of changes for localization

Users who have certain location settings will receive messages telling them how to disable each one, delete the associated data and limit the retention period of that data. Users who create a new Google Account will be informed of the account settings regarding location, which are enabled by default, and can of course disable them.

Google will also need to provide a web page detailing localization practices and guidelines. This will include ways for users to access their location settings and details of how each setting affects Google’s collection, storage and use of this location data.

Additionally, Google will no longer be able to share a character’s precise location data with a third-party advertiser without the user’s express consent. The company will have to delete location data “from a device or IP address in an app or from the web within 30 days” of getting it.

“Given the high level of tracking and monitoring that technology companies can integrate into their popular products, it is only fair that consumers are made aware of the importance of their data, including their movements, their collection, their storage and their use by these companies,” Karl Racine stated in a press release. “This resolution also gives users the ability and choice to be tracked or not, as well as restricts how user data may be shared with third parties.”

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