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Australia’s Federal Court on Friday said Google “partially” misled some consumers about personal location data that it collected through Android mobile phones in 2017 .
The enforcement action was brought by country’s competition regulator, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), who has been prosecuting Google for breaching consumer law.
“This is an important victory for consumers, especially anyone concerned about their privacy online, as the Court’s decision sends a strong message to Google and others that big businesses must not mislead their customers,” Rod Sims, ACCC Chair, said in a statement.
According to the consumer watchdog, the court ruled that Google misrepresented consumers that ‘location history’ was the only setting that affected whether Google collected, kept or used personally identifiable data about their location.
However, another account setting, ‘web & app activity’ also allowed the company to collect, store and use location data when it was turned on. It further said that that setting was turned on by default.
When users turned off ‘location history’, Google did not inform them that it will continue to collect and store data from ‘web & app activity’.
Between March 9, 2017 and November 29 , 2018, when users accessed ‘web & app activity’ on their phones, Google failed to mention that their setting was relevant to the collection of personal location data.
“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,” Sims said.
"The court rejected many of the ACCC’s broad claims. We disagree with the remaining findings and are currently reviewing our options, including a possible appeal. We provide robust controls for location data 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," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
The consumer watchdog is seeking declarations, penalties and compliance orders that will determined later.
(Update: Added Google's statement)