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Australia alleges Google misled users about use of location data

Mountain View, California - Australia's competition regulator said the country's Federal Court found that Google and its Australian arm misled users about the collection and use of personal location data.

Australia claims that Google misled users about the collection and use of location data (stock image).
Australia claims that Google misled users about the collection and use of location data (stock image).  © 123RF/bigtunaonline

The data was collected through Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018.

This is reportedly the first enforcement action brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, or ACCC. The ACCC launched legal proceedings against Google in 2019.

The court found that Google's conduct was liable to mislead the public.

"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 businesses must not mislead their customers," ACCC chairperson Rod Sims said.

Google reportedly said in a statement, "We disagree with the remaining findings and are currently reviewing our options, including a possible appeal." It also pointed out that the court rejected many of the ACCC's broad claims.

According to the court, the tech giant misrepresented that the "location history" was the only Google account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept, or used personally identifiable data about users' location. This was done during the initial set-up process of their Android device when a user created a new Google Account.

However, the user was unaware or misled that another Google account setting titled "web & app activity" was left on by default, which an unassuming user would not know or check. This setting enabled Google to collect, store, and use personally identifiable location data.

The ACCC underlined that users should not be kept in the dark when it comes to the collection of their personal location data.

"Today's decision is an important step to make sure digital platforms are up front with consumers about what is happening with their data and what they can do to protect it," Sims said.

Cover photo: 123RF/bigtunaonline

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