The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found that Google misled customers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018, in a world-first enforcement action brought by the ACCC.
The Guardian provided a good explanation of what happened. The Court found that Google continued to collect “Location History” and “Web & App Activity” on some Android and Pixel phones, even for customers who ticked “No” or “Do not collect” on their settings.
If a customer said no to “Location History”, but left “Web & App Activity” switched on, Google continued to collect location data, the ACCC said.
The ACCC also stated:
The 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 that 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, and that setting was turned on by default.
In addition, the ACCC wrote: The Court found that when consumers later accessed the ‘Location History’ setting on their Android device during the same time period to turn that setting off, they were also misled because Google did not inform them that by leaving the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting switched on, Google would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiable data.
According to The Guardian, a judgment published by Justin Thomas Thawley said that Google’s behavior was “partially misleading” He felt that some consumers would have been misled, and reasonably believed that this data would not be collected, and others would not have.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders. These will be determined at a later date. In addition to penalties, the ACCC is seeking an order for Google to publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain Google’s location data settings in the future.
Personally, I think its very sneaky of Google to try and trick people into giving Google their location data. Anybody else remember when Google’s motto was “Don’t be evil”?