Iowa raises 6 million via Google location tracking practices / public intelligence

Iowa is set to collect more than $6 million from Google over the internet giant’s location-tracking practices.

The settlement is part of a $390 million, multi-state lawsuit.

The Iowa Attorney General’s office has noted an increase in consumer complaints related to online activity and has dedicated more resources to monitoring online practices.

The lawsuit alleges that Google users have been tracked in various ways and without their knowledge.

Ashlee Kieler, a communications specialist with the Iowa Attorney General’s office, said people didn’t know they had to turn off their location-sharing feature in various places on their phone or laptop.

“Specifically, it was about Google’s location history and then about web and app activities,” said Kieler. “Location history is automatically turned off if you are a Google user. However, the web and app activity, which is a separate account setting, is automatically activated when you open your account.”

The lawsuit, initiated by the Maryland Attorney General, alleges that Google created detailed profiles of its customers, failed to notify them of the extent of personal location information it collected, and failed to tell them that they were being tracked in various ways.

While Iowans who used Google won’t receive a personal refund from this settlement, Kieler said the state will use its $6 million share of the settlement to bolster the AG’s consumer protection division, which handles complaints and educates people about them how technology and information can be used.

“Technology is now a part of everyone’s life,” said Kieler. “And it’s important that consumers understand when and how they are being tracked and what companies are doing with that information.”

The comparison requires Google to be more transparent about its tracking practices and show users additional information when they enable a location-based account setting.

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