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Alabama Attorney General (AG) Steve Marshall announced on Monday the state would be getting a piece of $391.5 million from a multistate settlement with Google regarding the company's location tracking practices.  

Various AGs opened a probe in 2018 following a report that Google recorded location data even when users had selected options saying they did not want their location tracked.

One of the ways Google makes money is by advertising products to its users. The advertisements can be designed specifically for the user by tracking location, preferences, interests, browsing history and more to tailor-fit products to the user. This type of targeted advertisement earned Google $111 billion in the first half of this year alone.

Alabama is slated to receive $7.6 million from the settlement.

"Google bases its business upon the collection of personal data, including location tracking," Marshall said. "Google uses the personal and behavioral data it collects to build detailed user profiles and target ads on behalf of its advertising customers. Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable information Google collects. Even a limited amount of location data can expose a person's identity and routines and can be used to infer personal details. Unfortunately, until now, the tech giant has failed to adequately safeguard user location privacy."

The settlement details the AGs found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location-tracking practices since at least 2014. Specifically, Google caused users to be confused about the scope of two app settings: "Location History" and "Web & App Activity."

Location History is automatically turned off unless a user turns on the setting. However, "Web & App Activity," a separate account setting, is automatically on when users set up a Google account, including all Android phone users. 

"As a result of our multistate settlement, Google will be required to allow users to have more control of their own information, to easily turn on or off tracking or sharing, and Google must make their account settings more accessible, transparent, and understandable. They must provide links to clear and understandable information, and they must end any sharing of precise location data with third parties without express consent of the user. This historic settlement is an important milestone in restoring consumer online privacy."

Alabama was joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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