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Google’s history with settlements just got $400 million more expensive

Google’s history with settlements just got $400 million more expensive

Russell Kidson

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Google has just agreed to pay $392 million to 40 US states in order to settle the recent location tracking investigation. In a recent blogpost, however, Google maintains that the settlement was based on ‘outdated product policies that we changed years ago.’ However, the 40 states who are on the receiving end of major financial reparations would probably like to disagree. 

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The almost $400 million settlement is the result of allegations leveled by 40 states that the company has been tracking users’ locations without prior consent. The attorneys general of New York, Oregon, Nebraska, Florida, and others state that at the time of the illegal surveillance, users’ location tracking was, to their knowledge, turned off. 

A history of settlements

This is far from the first time that Alphabet’s golden child has found itself on the questionable side of the law. In fact, Google has been involved in seven lawsuits relating to privacy and a further 10 lawsuits on the grounds of intellectual property. Below, we’ll take a look at Google’s history with litigation and some of the biggest settlements that the company has had to pay. Before we start, though, it’s pertinent to mention that the latest settlement is in no way linked to a lawsuit. Several media platforms have falsely claimed that it is, but this is not the truth. 

On the 1st of October this year, NBC Chicago reported that Google had agreed to a settlement of $100 million to residents of the state of Illinois. In this case, Google stood accused of contravention of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. This act ‘prohibits private sector companies and institutions from collecting biometric data from unsuspecting citizens in the state or online, no matter where the business is based.’ Google, unsurprisingly, denied that any wrongdoing had taken place and denied every claim leveled against it in the lawsuit. 

In July this year, Google agreed to pay a settlement in the amount of $90 million to a small Android app developer who accused the tech giant of abusing its position in the US mobile technology market. The app developers even went so far as to use the term ‘Monopoly’ in their accusations. 

Monopoly is a word that carries a great deal of fear. Fear of Microsoft gaining a monopoly over the wider gaming industry is the reason why the company’s proposal to buy Activision-Blizzard is still under such scrutiny and careful consideration. Google, yet again, admitted no wrongdoing in the case. In relation to the settlement, Google’s Vice President for Government Affairs, Wilson White, said that ‘as the agreement notes, we remain confident in our arguments and case, but this settlement will avoid protracted and unnecessary litigation with developers, whom we see as vital partners in the Android ecosystem.’

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Google is a company that seems to be willing to shell out billions every year on potential lawsuits to avoid actual litigation. The accusations highlighted in this article are serious – some would assert that these are some of the most dishonest and harmful practices that a company could be accused of. However, in every case above, Google admits no wrongdoing.

The company asserts that it has not usurped your privacy, tracked you without your permission, or prevented you from being able to profit from a partnership with the company. The most jarring aspect of all this is that Google is innocent of all this – at least where the law is concerned.

These settlements mean that the individuals involved have agreed to put their accusations to rest in exchange for large sums of money. Google has been absolved of all wrongdoing in the eyes of the law, and all it had to do was pay for it. When our privacy and civil liberties are at stake, isn’t it time we stop shoving accusations under a Persian rug? This is likely not the last time that Google is accused of breaking laws and disregarding your rights, and the next time the company tries something like this again, we’ll be here to report on it.

With the new Google AI letting you turn words into videos, it will be interesting to see how the company might use this to disrupt your privacy. The same can be said about cloud gaming from searches.

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