Australian Court Rules Google Deceived Users About Location Data Collection

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies
Alex Wong/ Getty

Tech giant Google could be facing major fines after the Australian Federal Court found that the Masters of the Universe misled Australian smartphone and tablet users about its location data collection.

ABC News Australia reports that Google could be facing fine sin the “many millions” after the Australian Federal Court found that the company misled Australian users about its collection of location data.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took the tech giant to court over on-screen representations made on Android devices in 2017 and 2018. The case focused on two specific Google settings affecting location data collection, “location history” and “web & app activity.”

Australia’s consumer watchdog claimed that Google misled Australian consumers because if the “location history” setting was disabled, but “web & app activity& remained enabled, the company continued to collect and use location data from users.

Justice Thomas Thawley said in his judgment:

I am satisfied that Google’s conduct assessed as a whole was misleading or deceptive of, or likely to mislead or deceive, ordinary members within the class identified by the ACCC, acting reasonably.

I conclude that Google’s conduct assessed as a whole conveyed a representation that having ‘web & app activity’ turned ‘on’ would not allow Google to obtain, retain and use personal data about the user’s location.

The penalty for Google’s violation is to be decided at a later date and Google could face a penalty of up to $1.1 million per breach. The court will determine what it considers a breach and how many occurred, but ACCC chair Rod Sims said that the watchdog will be seeking a penalty in the “many millions.”

“Data issues are only going to be more important. It’s crucial we get some court rulings in relation to what platforms can and can’t do,” Sims said.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the company is “currently reviewing options, including a possible appeal.”

The Google spokesperson added: “We provide robust controls for location data and are always looking to do more — for example we recently introduced auto delete options for location history, making it even easier to control your data.”

The court heard that after an Associated Press article covering the location data and setting issue was published in August 2018, Google urgently held an internal meeting that was referred to as the “oh shit” meeting.

The AP article led to a 500 percent increase in users disabling both settings, according to internal Google documents.

Read more at ABC News Australia here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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