Google has agreed to pay the state of Arizona $85 million to settle a consumer fraud lawsuit involving privacy concerns, raising hopes for other states that have also sued the internet giant.
The case involved allegations that the company deceptively obtained the geolocations of users who had turned off their “Location History” setting.
“I am proud of this historic settlement that proves no entity, not even big tech companies, is above the law,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) said in a statement.
Brnovich noted that Google, whose net income was $76 billion in 2021, generates the bulk of its revenues from advertising. Ads are often targeted to users based on their location.
Arizona said it was the first state to sue Google following a 2018 Associated Press investigation that found some Google apps continued to track the location of users even after they had paused the “Location History” feature.
The AP estimated that some 2 billion Google Android users and iPhone owners who used Google Maps or its search engine were potentially affected by the privacy issues.
Earlier this year, Indiana, Texas, Washington State and Washington, D.C., also sued Google over location tracking. Among the allegations was that Google incorporated designs into its apps that made it hard for users to opt out of all location tracking.
“Google denied consumers the ability to choose whether Google could track their sensitive location data to make a profit,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) said in a statement at the time.
While Arizona’s settlement could be a good omen for the other states that are suing, the implications weren’t immediately clear.
Asked for comment Wednesday, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) said in a statement: “Like Arizona, Indiana is litigating against Google on this important issue. The Court recently held a hearing on a motion to compel Google to produce discovery. We are awaiting a decision on that, which should come in the next few weeks.”
In settling the Arizona case, Google made no admission of wrongdoing.
“This case is based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Jose Castaneda, a company spokesman said in an email. “We are pleased to have this matter resolved and will continue to focus our attention on providing useful products for our users.”
Google says location data makes its products work better for users. But in a January blog post, the company also said it has “worked hard over the past few years” to make it easier for users to manage their location data.
Last month, in another privacy-related case, an Illinois judge gave final approval to a $100 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit involving Google Photos and alleged violations of Illinois’ Biometric Privacy Law.
Separately, Google is currently being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice and dozens of state attorneys general over alleged violations of federal antitrust laws.
The lawsuits against Google represent a growing trend among states, often in the absence of federal action, to hold tech giants accountable for their market dominance and business tactics.