has got it into hot water in Australia, where a case brought by the country’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has led to a federal court ruling that the tech giant misled consumers by operating a confusing dual-layer of location settings in what the regulator describes as a “world-first enforcement action”.
The case relates to personal location data collected bybetween January 2017 and December 2018. Per the ACCC, the Court ruled that “when consumers created a new Google Account during the initial set-up process of their , 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”.
“Another Google Account setting titled ‘Web & App Activity’ alsoto collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default,” it wrote.
The Court also ruled thatto collect, store and use their personally identifiable location data.
“Similarly, between 9 March 2017 and 29 November 2018, when consumers later accessed the ‘Web &device, they were misled because Google did not inform them that the setting was relevant to the collection of personal location data,” the ACCC added.
Similar complaints about Google’s deceptive location data processing — and allegations that it uses manipulative tactics to keep tracking web users’ locations for ad-targeting purposes — have been raised by European consumer agencies for years. And in February 2020, the company’s lead data regulator in the regionan investigation. However, that probe remains ongoing.
The ACCC said today that it would seek “declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders” following theruling. Although it added that the specifics of its enforcement action would be determined “later”. So it’s unclear exactly when Google will be hit with an order — nor how large a fine it might face. The tech giant may also seek to appeal the court .
about the methods by which consumers could prevent it from collecting and using their location data and the purposes for which Google was using personal location data).
Here’s Google’s statement in full:
“Themany of the ACCC’s broad claims. We disagree with the remaining findings and are reviewing our options, including a possible appeal. We 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.”
Whiledenies doing anything wrong in how it configures location settings — while simultaneously claiming it’s always looking to improve the controls it offers its users — Google’s settings and defaults have, nonetheless, got it into hot water with regulators before.
In 2019 France’sRegulation. That remains the most significant GDPR penalty issued to a tech giant since the regulation came into force a little under three years ago — although France has more recently sanctioned without consent.
Meanwhile, Australia has passed legislation this that directly targets the market power of Google (and Facebook) — giving a mandatory news media bargaining code in February that aims to address the power imbalance between platform giants and publishers around the reuse of journalism content.