Australian watchdog takes court action against Google

Google has been under the spotlight a lot in the last few years, from the home mini scandal to scrutiny over digital tax. Now, in the latest crackdown, Australia’s competition watchdog is starting proceedings against the firm over misleading claims about personal data.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) started proceedings against Google in the New South Wales federal court last week. The claims are that Google made false or misleading claims to consumers about the personal location data it was collection.

The ACCC says that Google broke the law when it used a series of on-screen alerts when users set up Google accounts on their Android phones and tablets. They say that, when accounts were set up, users wrongly believed that “Location History” was the only setting that affected whether or not their location data was being collected.

This was not true, however. In fact, users also needed to change their settings on “Web & App Activity”, otherwise their data was collected without their knowledge. This affected consumers using Google accounts between January 2017 and late 2018.

By law, Google is required to automatically have location history turned off. This applies to new accounts, even when web and activity is turned on. But in this case, Google continued to collect personal data about users’ location through the app without them knowing.

The ACCC argues that, as a result of this, users weren’t able to make an informed choice about their personal data and how it would be used. This is the first major court case by the watchdog against one the tech giants since it released its report into digital platforms.

ACCC chair, Rod Sims, said in a statement on Tuesday: “We allege that as a result of these on-screen representations, Google has collected, kept and used highly sensitive and valuable personal information about consumers’ location without them making an informed choice.”

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