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A Google smartphone app. (Photo by Brett Jordan via Unsplash)

Colorado is expected to receive more than $8.3 million from a settlement reached with Google over accusations that it misled users about its location-tracking practices in their settings while continuing to use the collected data to sell ads.  

The settlement, worth $391.5 million nationwide, marks the largest multistate attorney general privacy settlement ever in the U.S., the Colorado Attorney General’s Office said Monday in announcing the deal. 

“By misleading consumers into believing they could control their location data and privacy, Google violated our consumer protection laws,” Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement. “Today, we are holding them accountable.” 

The violations date back to at least 2014, the attorney general’s office said.

Monday’s settlement caps a nearly four-year investigation, prompted by an Associated Press reporting project that revealed that Google collects data through two Google account settings. Location History is “off” unless a user turns on the setting, but Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account.

The state attorneys general claimed that the internet search giant gave a false impression that when users turned off location tracking services, Google was no longer collecting geolocation data from them. But through other Google services and apps, Google continued to collect users’ history and location data, according to the settlement. 

Under the settlement, Google must show additional information to users when they turn a location-related account setting on or off and make key information about location tracking noticeable for users. Google must also give users detailed information about the type of location data it collects and how it is used.

The agreement also limits Google’s use and storage of certain types of location information and requires Google account controls to be more user-friendly. 

Thirty-nine other states joined Colorado in the settlement.

Colorado will use the money received through the settlement for future consumer fraud or antitrust enforcement, consumer education or public welfare purposes, said Lawrence Pacheco, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

The settlement was based on outdated product policies that the company changed years ago, José Castañeda, a Google spokesman told The Sun via email. The company has made improvements to policies and plans to add several news features to boost transparency for its users, including a way for users to easily delete their past data.

Olivia Prentzel

Olivia Prentzel is a general assignment writer for The Colorado Sun. Email: oliviaprentzel@coloradosun.com