Australian court rules Google misled customers on location data collection

Australian court rules Google misled customers on location data collection

A federal court in Australia has found Google mislead users about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices between 2017 and 2018. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it’s seeking “declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders.”

Apparently, Google mislead people into thinking location data was collected only if the “location history” setting was enabled. But it was discovered a separate setting enabled the search giant to collect, store, and use personally identifiable location data when the “Web & App Activity” feature was turned on.

Google has since taken more steps to be more transparent with users, with features that will automatically delete a user’s location history and also allow users to use Maps without being tracked.

“This is an important victory for consumers, especially anyone concerned about their privacy online, as the Court’s decision sends a strong message to Google and others that big business must not mislead their customers,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims.

While the court agreed Google mislead customers regarding location data collection, it dismissed some of the ACCC’s other allegations. Overall, Sims called the decision an “important step” in an effort to hold tech companies accountable for data collection practices.

“Companies that collect information must explain their settings clearly and transparently so consumers are not misled,” Sims said. “Consumers should not be kept in the dark when it comes to the collection of their personal location data.”

This isn’t the first time the Australian government has taken issue with Google. Earlier this year, Google was engaged in a dispute over a new bill in Australia that would make Google pay publishers for their news content. The search giant said the law would force Google to pull Search in the country, but tensions have apparently eased after Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.