September 19, 2023 – Google Location History Lawsuits Settled for $62 Million
Google has agreed to pay a $62 million cy pres award to settle the proposed class action detailed on this page and several related cases that alleged the search engine giant illegally tracked and stored smartphone users’ location information, even after they opted out.
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According to court documents, if the settlement is approved, the $62 million cy pres award, after service awards, attorneys’ fees and administration expenses have been covered, will be distributed to court-approved organizations “with a track record of addressing privacy concerns on the Internet.” Attorneys told the court that cy pres relief is necessary and appropriate in this instance given the “economic infeasibility” of distributing payments to a class containing as many as 247.7 million people.
The plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary settlement approval, submitted on September 14, says the settlement also includes injunctive relief in the form of Google affording consumers a “greater understanding of, and control over, their Location Information.” In particular, the proposed deal mandates that Google disclose to users the nature and extent of its use and storage of their location information and how users can make informed decisions with regard to their location data, including how to disable location history settings, the data collected, and how to set data retention limitations.
If approved by the court, the settlement, which attorneys called one of the largest privacy class action recoveries where statutory damages were unavailable, would cover all persons residing in the United States who used one or more mobile devices and whose location information was stored by Google while “location history” was disabled at any time between January 1, 2014 through the date proposed class members receive notice of the settlement.
ClassAction.orgwill update this page if and when the proposed settlement receives preliminary approval from the court.
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A proposed class action lawsuit filed in California details allegations that Google, Inc. engaged in the unlawful collection, tracking and storage of both Android and iPhone users’ location data—even for those with location tracking explicitly turned off. From the complaint:
“Google expressly represented to users of its operating system and apps that the activation of certain settings will prevent the tracking of users’ geolocations. This representation was false. Despite users’ attempts to protect their location privacy, Google collects and stores users’ location data, thereby invading users’ reasonable expectations of privacy, counter to Google’s own representations about how users can configure Google’s products to prevent such egregious privacy violations.”
The 18-page lawsuit cites an August 13 Associated Pressreport in which cyber security experts found that Google technology embedded on millions of smartphones stores consumers’ location details even when a particular user sets his or her privacy settings to prevent the tech behemoth from doing so. According to the case, despite Google’s assurances that turning off location history makes it so that the places a consumer goes are no longer stored, the defendant “continues to access and store the precise geolocation information” on millions of cell phones.
In truth, Google stores a user’s location every time he or she users any of the company’s apps, the complaint alleges, including weather apps and searches made on the defendant’s mobile web browser. The only way to actually turn off Google’s tracking and storage of location data, according to the lawsuit, is by navigating to “a deeply buried and non-obvious” setting called “Web & App Activity.” This setting, however, is obfuscated and only vaguely described by Google as having anything to do with location data, which the lawsuit argues is a purposeful move from the defendant in an attempt to continue tracking users. More from the complaint:
“Google is aware that it hides the nature of its location tracking and intentionally complicates the opt-out process. Google itself offers at least three support pages on location titled: ‘Manage or delete your Location History,’ ‘Turn location on or off for your Android device,’ and ‘Manage location settings for Android apps.’ Strikingly, none of these makes any mention of ‘Web & App Activity’—allegedly the only true way to prevent location tracking.”
The lawsuit looks to cover two proposed classes:
An Android class consisting of all United States residents who own Android phones, who turned off Location History, and whose location information was nonetheless recorded and used by Google; and
An iPhone class of consumers nationwide who own Apple phones, who turned off Location History, and whose location information was recorded and used by Google anyway.
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