Oregon will get $14.8 million from ‘historic’ Google settlement

The case, which Oregon co-investigated and negotiated, stems from Google’s location tracking practices

By: - November 14, 2022 4:38 pm

Oregon helped win an historic settlement with Google over location tracking. (Getty Images)

Oregon will receive a $14.8 million settlement from Google as part of a consumer privacy case because the tech giant misled users about tracking their location through their accounts, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced on Monday. 

The settlement is Oregon’s share of $391.5 million Google agreed to pay in a case that involves 39 other states who sued over its location tracking practices. Rosenblum and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson led the investigation and negotiations.

The Oregon Justice Department said the settlement was “the largest attorney general-led consumer privacy settlement ever.”

The case centers around Google misleading users into believing their location was not being tracked because they had turned location tracking off on their accounts. Google continued to collect that data. 

“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” Rosenblum said in a statement. “They have been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they had turned off their location-tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers.”

Location data is an integral part of Google’s digital advertising business, and it is used to build user profiles that become lucrative for targeted advertising.

Google also agreed to improve its location-tracking disclosures for consumers starting in 2023. As part of the settlement, Google must:

  • Show more information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off;”
  • Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users and not hidden; 
  • Provide detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “location technologies” webpage.

Attorneys general started to investigate Google after a 2018 Associated Press article that looked at how the company’s account settings could still collect location data even when the location history was turned “off.”

The attorneys general found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices dating back at least to 2014. 

Oregon’s funding from the settlement will go into the Oregon Department of Justice’s consumer protection and education account, which covers programs and work that helps consumers, said Kristina Edmunson, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Justice.

In 2019, Rosenblum formed the Oregon Consumer Privacy Task Force to address consumer online privacy and require businesses to follow basic standards for personal information. The task force will introduce comprehensive consumer data privacy legislation in the 2023 legislative session, Rosenblum’s office said. 

One proposal would give consumers more control over their personal data and give them the right to know what information a company collects and what is done with it. A companion bill from the task force would create a state registry of data brokers. Brokers sell personal consumer information but often have a low profile.

Other states that negotiated the settlement, besides Nebraska, are: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The settlement also includes  Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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Ben Botkin
Ben Botkin

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.