Australia’s Federal Court has found that Google misled consumers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices in 2017 and 2018.
The Federal Court ruled that when consumers created a new Google Account during the initial set-up process of their Android device, Google misrepresented that the ‘Location History’ setting was the only Google Account setting which affected whether Google collected, kept or used personally identifiable data about their location.
In fact, another Google Account setting titled ‘Web & App Activity’ also enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, its default setting.
The court also found that when consumers later turned off the ‘Location History’ setting, Google did not inform them that by leaving the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting switched on the company would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiable location data.
For 20 months to November 2018, Google misled consumers by not informing them that the ‘Web & App Activity’ was relevant to collection of personal location data, the court ruled. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which brought the case, is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders and compliance orders. They will be determined at a later date.
Rod Sims, chair of the ACCC, said the commission is requesting an order obliging Google to publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain its location data settings.
“This will ensure that consumers can make informed choices about whether certain Google settings that collect location data should be enabled,” he said.
Sims described the court’s decision as “an important step to make sure digital platforms are up front with consumers about what is happening with their data and what they can do to protect it.”
A Google spokesperson said the court rejected many of the ACCC’s broad claims.
“We disagree with the remaining findings and are currently reviewing our options, including a possible appeal,” a spokesperson said.
“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.”
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