AG Rutledge notches two wins on Google, student loan debt cancellation

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,170 views 

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a major multi-state settlement with Google on Monday (Nov. 14) and her arguments prevailed in an appellate decision to halt President Joe Biden’s executive order to eliminate student loan debt.

Rutledge said 40 states have reached a $391.5 million multistate settlement with Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google account settings. Arkansas will receive $11,368,923.47 from the settlement. This is the largest multistate Attorney General privacy settlement in U.S history, according to her office.

“We expect web browsers, like Google, to protect the privacy of its users rather than to exploit their information,” Rutledge said. “This historic settlement warns companies that they must clearly disclose when they are tracking location information and provide consumers with easily accessible settings to block the tracking of their location information.”

Location data is a key part of Google’s digital advertising business. Google uses 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 personal 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.

The attorneys general opened the Google investigation following a 2018 Associated Press article that revealed Google “records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.” The article focused on two Google account settings: Location History and Web & App Activity.

Location History is “off” unless a user turns on the setting, but Web & App Activity, a separate account setting, is automatically “on” when users set up a Google account, including all Android phone users. As detailed in the settlement, the attorneys general found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014.

The settlement requires Google to be more transparent with consumers about its practices. Google must:

• Show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”;
• Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and
• Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it’s used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.

Rutledge also received a favorable ruling on Monday from an appellate court for her opposition to President Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness executive order.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a state coalition’s motion for an injunction against the Biden administration’s effort to cancel student loan debt. Rutledge and other attorneys general claimed the move violated federal law, the constitutional principle of separation of powers, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit, which was filed in September, claimed President Biden knew he did not have the proper authority to authorize this type of executive action.

“We halted President Biden’s unlawful attempt to skirt Congressional authority and force the college-loan debt of adults who chose to take out these loans, onto the backs of millions of hardworking Americans,” Rutledge said. “Americans are struggling to pay their utility bills and mortgages in the midst of the President’s inflation and certainly shouldn’t have to pay off someone else’s debt for a high-dollar degree.”

Joining Arkansas in the suit are the states of: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina.