Australia’s Federal Court has found that Google misled customers on its data collection practices, including the use of location data, in a world-first case for the technology giant.
The Federal Court ruled that Google misrepresented its location history settings in the set-up process of a new Google Account, specifically for Android devices during January 2017 and December, 2018.
While users were creating their account, the court says that Google misrepresented this location history setting in a way that would lead users to believe this was the only setting that affected Google’s ability to collect or use their personally identifiable data.
Google left the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting turned on by default, meaning Google was able to access their data if settings were not changed while setting up an account.
The Federal Court also pointed out that users who later accessed their ‘location history’ settings on Android during the same time period, customers were misled because “Google did not inform them that the setting was relevant to the collection of personal location data,” says a release.
Google’s conduct was ultimately found to have the potential to “misled the public,” according to the Federal Court, but the court did dismiss methods presented by the ACCC that could further enhance privacy and ensure services do not collect more information than they may appear on the surface.
Chair of the ACCC, Rod Sims has said that “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 data, when that was simply not true.”
“Companies that collect information must explain their settings clearly and transparently so consumers are not misled,” he said, adding that “consumers should not be kept in the dark when it comes to collection of their personal location data.”
Federal Court Finds Google Misled Customers On Data Collection
“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,” said the ACCC’s Chair, Rod Sims.
“Today’s decision is an important step to make sure digital platforms are up front with customers about what is happening with their dara and what they can do to protect it,” Sims said.
He concluded that “in addition to penalties, we are seeking an order for Google to publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain Google’s location data settings in the future. This will ensure that consumers can make informed choices about whether certain Google settings that collect location data should be enabled,” Sims said.