Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Google 'Misled' Aussies

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Google 'Misled' Aussies

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson

AUSTRALIA'S consumer watchdog is taking on the world's biggest tech company, alleging Google misled Australians about information they were harvesting from them, and used the ill-gotten data for its own financial gain.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed the lawsuit against Google in Federal Court this week, and will seek potentially multimillion-dollar penalties as well as changes to the way the company obtains information from its users. A spokeswoman for Google Australia said the company would "defend" its actions.

The lawsuit follows the ACCC's exhaustive, 18-month investigation into digital platforms in Australia that made 23 recommendations, including changes to Google's phones, the Privacy Act, and the introduction of a privacy code for tech companies in Australia.

The ACCC's new lawsuit alleges Google broke Australian Consumer Law between January 2017 and late 2018 by misleading Australians about the scope of location information Google was collecting about them.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said Australians who used a Google account on an Android phone or tablet, or who accessed their account settings during this time, were led to believe they could stop Google tracking them by turning off the "Location History" setting when, in fact, they also had to turn off "Web and App Activity".

"We are taking court action against Google because we allege that as a result of these on-screen representations, Google has collected, kept and used highly sensitive and valuable personal information about consumers' location without them making an informed choice," Mr 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. …

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