Tuesday, 29 October 2019 18:38

ACCC takes Google to court over location data collection Featured

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ACCC takes Google to court over location data collection Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

The Australian competition watchdog has taken search giant Google to the Federal Court over allegedly making false or misleading claims about the collection of personal location data.

In a statement, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it had sued both the American company Google and the local outfit, Google Australia, claiming that they had breached Australian Consumer Law between at least January 2017 until late 2018.

When consumers set up an Android mobile device, they were not properly told what settings they had to adjust in order to ensure that location data was not collected.

The case focuses on the settings Location History and Web & App Activity. Both had to be turned off to ensure location data was not collected.

“Our case is that consumers would have understood as a result of this conduct that by switching off their ‘Location History’ setting, Google would stop collecting their location data, plain and simple,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“We allege that Google misled consumers by staying silent about the fact that another setting also had to be switched off.”

“Many consumers make a conscious decision to turn off settings to stop the collection of their location data, but we allege that Google’s conduct may have prevented consumers from making that choice.”

The watchdog also claimed that from about mid-2018 until late 2018, Google indicated that the only way consumers could prevent the collection, retention and use of location data was by not using certain Google services, including Google Search and Google Maps. But the ACCC pointed out that this could be achieved by switching off both the settings mentioned.

An AP report in August 2018 uncovered the fact that turning off Location history would not prevent location data from being collected by Google. The same month, a man in San Diego, California, sued the search company over what he characterised as a "deceptive practice".

Reacting to the ACCC move, Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said: "The average person would be astounded at the level and range of data digital platforms like Google have about them.
It’s up to the ACCC to use the laws at its disposal to ensure consumers are protected, particularly in this day and age when we carry the Internet around with us on our mobile phones and smart watches.

"Mobile towers, Wi-Fi hotspots and apps like Google Maps bring great convenience to our lives. Let’s not kid ourselves, they also track our location and interactions, and this data is being monetised. It’s in everyone’s interest that consumers make informed choices about whether their data is collected and used."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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