Australia’s Federal Court ruled against Google for misleading users about the collection and use of their location data; “found Google liable for misleading the public”
Most Americans are not aware of how much data Google collects about their activities online. Last month, Google finally revealed how much personal data it collects in Chrome and its Google app. The data Google collects will frighten you. However, Google pledged to stop selling ads based on user-tracking browser data. Google announced last month that its Chrome browser would phase out support for third-party cookies by 2022.
While Google promised to no longer track people’s online activity using third-party cookies, it seems the tech giant is still collecting users’ location data. In a March blog post, David Temkin, Google’s director of product management for ads privacy and trust, wrote: Now, “we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.”
Today, Australia’s federal court found that Google misled users about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices between 2017 and 2018, the country’s competition regulator, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said Friday. “The Court also found that Google’s conduct was liable to mislead the public.”
In a decision posted on its website, the ACCC wrote:
“The Federal Court has found that Google LLC and Google Australia Pty Ltd (together, Google) misled consumers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018, in a world-first enforcement action brought by the ACCC.”
ACCC Chair Rod Sims added: “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.”
Meanwhile, Google’s spokesperson said the tech giant is reviewing its options including a possible appeal.
Below is the rest of the ruling.
The Court ruled that when consumers created a new Google Account during the initial set-up process of their Android device, Google misrepresented that the ‘Location History’ setting was the only Google Account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept or used personally identifiable data about their location. In fact, another Google Account setting titled ‘Web & App Activity’ also enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default.
The Court also found that when consumers later accessed the ‘Location History’ setting on their Android device during the same time period to turn that setting off, they were also misled because Google did not inform them that by leaving the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting switched on, Google would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiable location data.
Similarly, between 9 March 2017 and 29 November 2018, when consumers later accessed the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting on their Android device, they were misled because Google did not inform them that the setting was relevant to the collection of personal location data.
The Court also found that Google’s conduct was liable to mislead the public.
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome in this world-first case. Between January 2017 and December 2018, consumers were led to believe that ‘Location History’ was the only account setting that affected the collection of their personal location data, when that was simply not true,” Mr Sims said.