BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts is slated to receive $9.3 million and Google faces a slew of new requirements under a settlement over the tech giant’s location tracking practices that Attorney General Maura Healey said is the largest multi-state data privacy settlement ever reached by attorneys general.

The $391.5 million, 40-state settlement concludes an investigation that found Google “violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014,” according to Healey’s office.

State prosecutors opened their Google investigation following a 2018 Associated Press article that revealed that Google can record a person’s movements even when the “Location History” setting is turned off because “Web & App Activity,” a separate account setting that also tracks location, is automatically turned on when users set up Google accounts, including all Android phone users.

“Google uses the personal and behavioral data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target ads on behalf of its advertising customers,” Healey’s office said. “Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects — even a limited amount of location data can expose a person’s identity and routines. This data has the potential to reveal intimate and sensitive details, including, as Google has acknowledged, whether a person has sought reproductive health care.”

Google “caused users to be confused” about the settings that control collection of the users’ location data.

“Technology companies need to be upfront with users about how and when their data is tracked and shared, especially when it comes to location information which can reveal personal information about people’s lives,” Healey said. “This unprecedented agreement holds Google accountable for these deceptive practices, requires more transparency, and ensures more consumer control over what information is used.”

The settlement requires Google to show additional information to users when they turn a location-related account setting on or off, make sure key information about location tracking is not hidden, give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used, give users the ability to disable a location-related account setting and delete location information stored by that setting without needing to navigate to separate webpages, and automatically delete location information collected through “Web & App Activity” after 30 days.

(Copyright (c) 2022 State House News Service.

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