By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – Google agreed to pay $155 million to settle claims by California and private plaintiffs that the search engine company misled consumers about how it tracks their locations, and used their data without consent.
Both settlements resolve claims that the Alphabet Inc unit deceived people into believing they maintained control over how Google collected and used their personal data.
The company was accused of being able to “profile” people and target them with advertising even if they turned off their “Location History” setting, and deceive people about their ability to block ads they did not want.
“Google was telling its users one thing–that it would no longer track their location once they opted out–but doing the opposite and continuing to track its users’ movements for its own commercial gain,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “That’s unacceptable.”
The California settlement requires Google to pay $93 million, and disclose more about how it tracks people’s whereabouts and uses data it collects.
Money from Google’s $62 million settlement with private plaintiffs would, after deducting legal fees, go to court-approved nonprofit groups that track internet privacy concerns.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said this made sense because it was “infeasible” to distribute money to the approximately 247.7 million U.S. adults with mobile devices.
Some critics say this type of settlement, known as “cy pres,” offers little benefit to class members.
Google denied liability, and both settlements require court approval.
Last November, Google agreed to pay $391.5 million to resolve similar allegations by 40 U.S. states.
The Mountain View, California-based company has also reached $124.9 million of settlements with Arizona and Washington.
A spokesperson for Google on Friday referred to a blog post discussing the multistate settlement, and said it related to “outdated product policies that we changed years ago.”
Lawyers for the private plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Google generated $110.9 billion of advertising revenue in the first half of 2023, accounting for 81% of its total $137.7 billion of revenue.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Daniel Wallis)