The Federal Court in Australia on Friday ordered Google to pay over $40 million in penalties for making misleading representations to consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data on Android phones.
According to Australia’s Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), the data was collected between January 2017 and December 2018.
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The Court previously found that Google breached the Australian Consumer Law by representing to some Android users that the setting titled “Location History” was the only Google account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept and used personally identifiable data about their location.
In fact, another Google account setting titled “Web & App Activity” also enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default, the ACCC said in a statement.
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“This significant penalty imposed by the Court sends a strong message to digital platforms and other businesses, large and small, that they must not mislead consumers about how their data is being collected and used,” said ACCC Chair, Gina Cass-Gottlieb.
Personal location data is sensitive and important to some consumers, and “some of the users who saw the representations may have made different choices about the collection, storage and use of their location data if the misleading representations had not been made by Google,” Cass-Gottlieb added.
The ACCC estimated that the users of 1.3 million Google accounts in Australia may have viewed a screen found by the court to have breached the Australian Consumer Law.
Google took remedial steps and had addressed all of the contravening conduct by 20 December 2018, meaning that users were no longer shown the misleading screens.
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“Companies need to be transparent about the types of data that they are collecting and how the data is collected and may be used, so that consumers can make informed decisions about who they share that data with,” Cass-Gottlieb noted.
The ACCC instituted proceedings against Google and Google Australia in October 2019.
In April 2021, the Federal Court found that Google breached the Australian Consumer Law.
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