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Google accused by Australia’s consumer watchdog of misleading millions over personal data 

Australia’s consumer watchdog sues Google: Internet giant is accused of misleading millions of customers over personal data

  • Consumer watchdog ACCC launches legal action against online giant Google
  • Google accused of misleading millions of Aussies over use of personal data
  • Google has denied any wrongdoing and intends to fight the allegations in court

Australia’s consumer watchdog has launched legal action against Google, accusing the online giant of misleading customers about the use of their personal data.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges Google failed to properly inform its users – and did not gain their consent – before collecting data on their internet activity for targeted advertising.

The internet giant has denied any wrongdoing and intends to fight the allegations.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the company’s 2016 changes impacted millions of Australians from late June 2016 until at least December 2018. 

‘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,’ he said on Monday.

Google is in hot water with consumer watchdog ACCC over alleged misuse of personal data

‘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. 

The ACCC alleges Google did not obtain explicit consent from consumers.

‘The use of this new combined information allowed Google to increase significantly the value of its advertising products, from which it generated much higher profits,’ Mr Sims added.

‘The ACCC considers 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.’  

Before June 2016, Google only collected and used personally identifiable information about their account users’ activities on its owned services and apps for advertising purposes.

Following the changes, users were prompted to click a pop-up notification to agree to the changes, which allowed Google to collect and store more personally identifiable information about the online activities of account holders, including their use of third-party sites and apps. 

‘We believe that many consumers, if given an informed choice, may have refused Google permission to combine and use such a wide array of their personal information for Google’s own financial benefit,’ Mr Sims said. 

Google strongly disagrees with the allegations and will defend its position in court.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims says Google's changes in 2016 impacted millions of Australians

ACCC chairman Rod Sims says Google’s changes in 2016 impacted millions of Australians

‘The changes we made were optional and we asked users to consent via prominent and easy-to-understand notifications,’ a spokesperson told AAP.

‘If a user did not consent, their experience of our products and services remained unchanged.’

Federal Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said consumers deserved protection from invasive advertising.

‘Anyone who has experienced that spooky feeling of being served targeted ads after browsing the internet should welcome moves by the ACCC to ensure that Australian law is being upheld,’ she told AAP.

‘Sometimes targeted advertising can be handy, but it can sometimes feel invasive. The main thing is that consumers understand and consent to how their data gets used.’

Internet giant Google has denied any wrongdoing and plans to fight the allegations

Internet giant Google has denied any wrongdoing and plans to fight the allegations