Google’s historic collection of location data has got it into hot water in Australia, where a case by the country’s Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) has led to a federal court ruling that the tech giant misled consumers by operating a confusing dual location shift has attitudes on what the regulator calls “world’s first enforcement measure”.
The case relates to personal location data that Google collected between January 2017 and December 2018 via Android mobile devices.
According to the ACCC, the court ruled: “When consumers created a new Google Account during the initial setup of their Android device, Google misrepresented that the” Location History “setting was the only setting for the Google Account that would affect whether or not Google collected and kept them or used personal data about their location ”.
“Another Google account setting called” Web and App Activity “also allowed Google to collect, store and use personal location data when enabled. This setting was enabled by default,” wrote Google.
The court also ruled that Google misled consumers by accessing the Location History setting on their Android device to turn that setting off later over the same period as it failed to inform them that The “Web and App Activity” setting was changed. On, Google would continue to collect, store and use its personally identifiable location data.
Similarly, between March 9, 2017 and November 29, 2018, when consumers later accessed the Web and App Activity setting on their Android device, they were misled because Google didn’t informed that the setting is relevant to the collection of personal location data, “added the ACCC.
Similar complaints that Google’s location computing is misleading – and allegations that manipulative tactics are used to track web users’ locations for ad targeting purposes – have been made by consumer agencies in Europe for years. And in February 2020, the company’s leading data regulator in the region finally opened an investigation. However, this probe remains.
While the ACCC said today that following the federal court ruling, he will seek “statements, fines, disclosure orders and compliance orders”. Although it added that the details of its enforcement action will be determined “at a later date”. So it’s not exactly clear when Google will be affected by an order – nor how much the fine could be.
The tech giant can also try to appeal the court ruling.
Google said today it is reviewing its legal options and considering a “potential appeal.” This underscores the fact that the court did not fully endorse the ACCC’s case because it dismissed some of the allegations (related to certain statements Google has made about the ways consumers might trade to prevent their location data from being used) and the purposes for which Google used personal location data to collect and use).
Here is the full explanation from Google:
“The court denied many of the ACCC’s general claims. We disagree with the remaining results and are currently reviewing our options, including a possible legal remedy. We provide reliable controls over location data and we always strive to do more. For example, we recently introduced options for automatically clearing location history, which make it even easier for you to control your data. “
While Mountain View denies it did anything wrong with configuring its location settings – while claiming that it is always looking to improve the controls it offers its users – Google’s settings and defaults previously had it with regulators brought into hot water.
As early as 2019, the French data watchdog CNIL imposed a fine of USD 57 million for a number of transparency and consent errors under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. This remains the biggest GDPR penalty for a tech giant since the regulation came into effect a little less than three years ago – despite France recently sanctioning Google $ 120 million under various EU laws for deleting tracking cookies without consent.
Australia this year has pushed through legislation aimed directly at Google (and Facebook) market power – the passage of a mandatory bargaining code for news media February The aim is to eliminate the power imbalance between platform giants and publishers when it comes to reusing journalistic content.