The Federal Court has found Google misled consumers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices, following a world-first enforcement action brought by Australia's consumer rights watchdog.
The case saw the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) allege Google misrepresented that a 'Location History' setting was the only account setting that affected whether the digital giant kept or used personal data.
In fact, another account setting titled 'Web & App Activity' also enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on. That setting was on by default.
The Federal Court found that when consumers accessed the 'Location History' setting on their Android device they were 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 location data.
Similarly, when consumers accessed the 'Web & App Activity' setting on their Android device, they were misled because Google did not inform them that the setting was relevant to the collection of personal location data.
ACCC chair Rod Sims has described the watchdog's success in the Federal Court as an "important victory for consumers".
"The Court's decision sends a strong message to Google and others that big businesses must not mislead their customers," Sims said.
"Today's decision is an important step to make sure digital platforms are up front with consumers about what is happening with their data and what they can do to protect it.
"Companies that collect information must explain their settings clearly and transparently so consumers are not misled. Consumers should not be kept in the dark when it comes to the collection of their personal location data."
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders. This will be determined at a later date.
"In addition to penalties, we are seeking an order for Google to publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain Google's location data settings in the future," Sims said.
"This will ensure that consumers can make informed choices about whether certain Google settings that personal collect location data should be enabled."
Business News Australia
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