Google slammed with lawsuit on misleading customers on location data collection and use

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A sign is pictured outs a Google office near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S. | REUTERS

AUSTRALIA – Google LLC and Google Australia Pty Ltd (together, Google) has been slammed with a lawsuit in the Federal Court in Sydney by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

According to their website, ACCC is accusing Google for misleading the consumers on collection and use of location data.

The ACCC alleges that Google violated the Australian Consumer Law as from at least January 2017, when it made an on-screen message display on Android mobile phones and tablets that the ACCC claims deceived consumers about the data collection and use by Google when Google account settings were enabled or disabled on the devices.

These on-screen message displays were allegedly made to Google customers when they are setting up or accessing Google account on their Android mobile phones and tablets.

“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,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

ACCC focused their lawsuit on collection of location data based on two Google Account settings which are ‘Location History’ and ‘Web & App Activity’.

They allege that Google did not duly inform customers to switch off the settings if they did not want Google to collect, keep and use their location data.

On the other hand, they also accused Google that they did not inform consumers that by leaving their ‘Web & App Activity’ on, Google will be able to still collect and keep their location data.

“Our case is that consumers would have understood as a result of this conduct that by switching off their ‘Location History’ setting, Google would stop collecting their location data, plain and simple,” 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.”

“We consider that because of Google’s failure to disclose this use of data, consumers were and still are deprived of the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether to share their personal location data with Google,” Mr Sims said.

“Transparency and inadequate disclosure issues involving digital platforms and consumer data were a major focus of our Digital Platforms Inquiry, and remain one of the ACCC’s top priorities,” he added.

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