Australian Consumers Deceived by Google
Google is the most powerful search engine that spans across the globe, where it provides rapid answers to web search queries. However, its global competitors have a simmering beef with the US company. Recently, the Australian Consumer Commission (ACCC) successfully triumphed over Google, suing the entity for over $60 million.
Based on the verdict, Google has been found guilty of misleading Australian Android users about the collection and use of their location data for a period close to two years, between January 2017 and December 2018.
Their accusations hinged on the fact that customers were led to believe that Google’s setting would disable location tracking, yet the tech giant continued to track some of its users’ Android phones, this was even after they disabled “Location History” in the device’s settings.
1.3 Million Accounts Affected
Google could not deny this, as another, default setting, “Web & App Activity,” allowed the company to “collect, store, and use personally identifiable location data.” Default settings like this cannot be removed as they are forced on the user or hidden from them.
To back up their claims, the ACC compiled evidence of more than 1.3 million Australian Google accounts, which were targeted by the tech giant.
According to ACCC Chairman, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, Google used the retained personal data via the ‘Web & App Activity setting, to target ads to some consumers, and bolster their revenue. Something that would happen regardless of the false choice, the “Location History” setting, being turned off.
Google attempted a defense, arguing that some users might have made different choices about the collection, storage, and use of their location data. The company cited it might unknowingly made the misleading representations about data collection.
Google Violates Consumer Law
However, this jaw-dropping fine is just the latest of many, Google has been sued multiple times, in the past decade. Previously, the tech giant paid fines of $11.3 million for aggressive data collection, and $223.8 million for favoring its services over competitors. Also, $1.7 billion for anti-competitive practices in online advertising, and the largest of them all; $2.72 billion for abusing its dominant market position to manipulate search results.
On the 20th of December, 2018, Google took corrective measures in addressing all issues which led to this fine. Users would no longer be shown misleading information implying that pausing location history will stop collecting information about the places they go with their devices.
Yet in 2019, proceedings were initiated against Google, and in April 2021, The Australian Federal Court ruled that Google violated Australian Consumer Law.
Even before this ruling, the company fell into hot water with the French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL), which fined them approximately $170 million by denying website visitors their right to reject tracking cookies – by hiding this option behind multiple clicks. France labeled the charges as an infringement of internet users’ freedom of consent.