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California investigation finds Google used location data without consent

Google has settled for $93 million with California, resolving allegations that the company used location data without informed consent, violating California’s consumer protection laws.

The settlement follows the California Department of Justice’s multiyear investigation that found the tech giant deceived users by storing, collecting and using their location data for advertising and consumer profiling without consent, according to a news release from California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta.

“Our investigation revealed that Google was telling its users one thing — that it would no longer track their location once they opted out — but doing the opposite and continuing to track its users’ movements for its own commercial gain,” Bonta said in the release. “That’s unacceptable, and we’re holding Google accountable with today’s settlement.”

A spokesperson for Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The settlement comes after Google reached settlements with 40 other states last year for $391.5 million over its location tracking practices.

The Mountain View-based company receives a good chunk of its revenue through location-based advertising because advertisers want to market to users based on where they’re located. The company uses location data to create behavior profiles of its users to figure out which advertisements are best.

Bonta alleged in a complaint that Google deceived users by falsely telling them if they turned off the “location history” setting on their browser that their location data wouldn’t be stored. According to the complaint, Google continued to store users’ location data even after the setting was turned off. Google also allegedly falsely told users they could opt out of advertisements tailored to their location.

Under the settlement, Google will also be required to become more transparent about location tracking, show more information to users when they enable location-related settings and provide more information through a “location technologies” webpage that would include information about location data, according to the release.

The company will be required to disclose to users if Google uses location history data to build ad profiles.

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