In a Media Release, posted by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), it announced that it was requiring Google LLC to pay $60 million for misleading representations. In short the ACCC found that Google mislead Android users by making them think that the company was not tracking them.
Here are some key parts of the Media Release:
The Federal Court has ordered Google LLC to pay $60 million in penalties for making misleading representations to consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data on Android phones between January 2017 and December 2018, following court action by the ACCC.
The Court previously found that Google LLC and Google Australia Pty Ltd. (together, Google) had breached the Australian Consumer Law by representing to some Android users that the setting titled “Location History” was the only Google account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept and used personally identifiable data about their location.
In fact, another Google account setting titled “Web & App Activity” also enabled by Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default.
The Media release continues: The ACCC’s best estimate, based on available data, is that the users of 1.3 million Google accounts in Australia may have viewed a screen found by the Court to have breached the Australian Consumer Law.
Google took remedial steps and had addressed all of the contravening conduct by 20 December 2018, meaning that users were no longer shown the misleading screens.
ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said, “This is the first public enforcement outcome arising out of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.”
In addition, the Media Release makes it clear that consumers can access the “Web & App Activity” and “Location History” settings through their Google Account. Consumers can also delete personal data that Google has already collected about them through their Google account.
The Guardian reported that in April of last year, the federal court found Google breached consumer laws by misleading local users into thinking the company was not collecting personal data about their location via mobile devices with Android operating systems.
According to The Guardian, the case revolved around whether it was sufficiently clear Google would still collect and access location data when a user’s location history was set to “off” but their web and app activity was “on” and one of its apps was used.
In my opinion, any company that thinks it is acceptable to trick consumers into let it secretly collect location (and other types of) data, is in the wrong. It is time for these companies to find a much more ethical way to earn revenue.