ACCC takes Google to court over personal data use

ACCC takes Google to court over personal data use

As Google prepares to face the US House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee along with other tech giants, the online search and advertising behemoth has a new legal challenge to contend with on the other side of the world here in Australia.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched legal proceedings in the Federal Court alleging Google misled our country's consumers to expand the scope of data it gathers for uses including targeted advertising.

The ACCC announced today it alleges Google misled consumers when it failed to properly inform consumers, and did not gain their explicit informed consent, about its move in 2016 to start combining personal information in people's Google accounts with information about their activities on non-Google sites to display ads.

This meant this data about users' non-Google online activity became linked to their names and other identifying information held by Google. Previously, this information had been kept separately from users' Google accounts, meaning the data was not linked to an individual user.


READ MORE: Australian brands failing users on data privacy


Google then used this newly combined information to improve the commercial performance of its advertising businesses.

The consumer watchdog also alleges Google misled consumers about a related change to its privacy policy.

"We are taking this action because we consider Google misled Australian consumers about what it planned to do with large amounts of their personal information, including internet activity on websites not connected to Google," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

"Google significantly increased the scope of information it collected about consumers on a personally identifiable basis.

"This included potentially very sensitive and private information about their activities on third party websites. It then used this information to serve up highly targeted advertisements without consumers' express informed consent."

Sims said the ACCC considered that consumers effectively pay for Google's services with their data, so this change introduced by Google increased the "price" of Google's services without consumers' knowledge.

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