California hits Google for $93M over deceptive location data options

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California hits Google for $93M over deceptive location data options
Short Title California hits Google for $93M over deceptive location data options
Location California
Date September 14, 2023

Solove Harm Surveillance, Secondary Use, Breach of Confidentiality, Decisional Interference
Information Location
Threat Actors Google

Affected California residents who use Google products and services
High Risk Groups Consumers
Tangible Harms Change of Behavior, Change of feelings or perception

Google is accused of deceiving users into enabling location tracking and using that data for advertising purposes, even when users had opted out of personalized ads.


Google's $93 million settlement with California's Attorney General revolves around a lawsuit filed against the tech giant for deceptive practices related to location data management. The lawsuit accused Google of misleading users by offering options to manage their location data in a seemingly straightforward manner.

The complaint highlighted that Google encouraged users to "enhance" their Google Maps experience by agreeing to share their location data, with responses like "Yes, I'm in" or "Skip for now." However, agreeing to these prompts turned on Location History for purposes beyond improving Maps, despite this setting being off by default.

Even if users had Location History turned off, Google falsely assured them that "the places you go to are no longer stored." In reality, Google continued to record their precise location through "Web and App Activity," which was activated whenever users utilized other Google apps and services.

Furthermore, Google seemingly provided an option to opt out of location-based or personalized ads when signing up, but this option did not effectively prevent the use of location data for ad targeting.

This deceptive conduct led to a lawsuit where Google agreed to a $93 million settlement with no admission of wrongdoing. As part of the settlement, Google must adhere to new restrictions and transparency requirements regarding its location services and communications with users in California. These requirements include showing additional information to users when enabling location-related account settings, providing more transparency about location tracking, disclosing the use of location data for ads personalization, and obtaining internal approval for material changes to location-setting and ads personalization disclosures.

Breach of Confidentiality, Surveillance, Secondary Use, Decisional Interference

Laws and Regulations

California’s Unfair Competition Law
Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq. (UCL)
False Advertising Law
Business and Professions Code section 17500 et seq. (FAL)