Google has misled consumers about data collection, says Australian Watchdog

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The Australian federal court found that Alphabet’s Google misled some consumers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices, the country’s competition authority said on Friday.

The Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) announced that it is seeking clarifications and penalties from Google despite not disclosing an amount.

“This is a major victory for consumers, especially those concerned about their online privacy, as the court’s decision sends a strong message to Google and others that big corporations must not mislead their customers,” Rod said Sims, chairman of the ACCC, in a statement.

The case revolves around certain Google settings related to location data collection, location history, and web and app activity.

The court found that Google falsely claimed it could only collect information from the location history setting on user devices between January 2017 and December 2018.

A setting to control web and application activity when activated also allowed Google to collect, store and use the data and was activated by default on the devices.

Users were not informed that disabling location history and enabling the “Web and app activity” setting would allow Google to continue collecting data, the court found.

The court has to decide what it considers a violation and how many have occurred, but the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) quoted ACCC chairman Rod Simms as saying that the regulator would seek a “many millions” fine.

A Google spokesman said the company is reviewing its options.

“The court denied many of the ACCC’s general allegations. We disagree with the remaining findings and are currently reviewing our options, including a possible appeal,” the spokesman said.

The tech giant has been embroiled in legal action in Australia over the past few months as the government pondered it and later passed a law making Google and Facebook pay media companies for content on their platforms.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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