The ACCC has began proceedings against Google alleging it had misled Australian customers over the data it collects, keeps and uses.
Google had allegedly breached Australian Consumer Law, ACCC claims, as far back as January 2017 when it first provided supposedly misleading instructions for users.
"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," said ACCC chair Rod Sims..
The ACCC points to two offending settings available on users’ Google accounts between early 2017 and late 2018: Location History and Web & App Activity.
The government body claims Google did not properly disclose that users had to manually switch off both settings for Google not to collect their data. ACCC believes consumers would have simply assumed switching the Location History setting off meant Google was no longer collecting their location information.
For that to happen during the time between 2017 and 2018, however, the Web & App Activity setting would have also needed to be switched off.
A Google spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia it plans to defend the ACCC's allegations.
"We are currently reviewing the details of these allegations. We continue to engage with the ACCC and intend to defend this matter," the spokesperson told us.
In response to the ACCC’s allegations, Shadow Minister for Communication, Michelle Rowland, said it's in everyone's interest to make informed choices about how their data is collected and used.
"The average person would be astounded at the level and range of data digital platforms like Google have about them," MP Rowland said in a media release.
"It's up to the ACCC to use the laws at its disposal to ensure consumers are protected, particularly in this day and age when we carry the internet around with us on our mobile phones and smart watches. Mobile towers, Wi-Fi hotspots and apps like Google Maps bring great convenience to our lives. Let’s not kid ourselves, they also track our location and interactions, and this data is being monetised."
If successful in the trial against Google, the ACCC is hoping to seek penalties, declarations and orders requiring Google to publish corrective notices as well as the establishment of a compliance program for the tech giant.
Google has been fined $US56.8 ($79) million by privacy regulators in France, marking the country’s first use of the tough new privacy rules enacted in Europe last year. Specifically, the company is accused of violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by using, without proper consent, the private data of users to craft personalised ads and by burying key privacy disclosures pages deep amid oceans of text.