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Google breached Australian consumer law by failing to warn privacy-wary users about location data

Google slammed for collecting Australian users’ location data without proper warnings

  • Federal Court found Google breached consumer law with inadequate warning
  • Justice Thomas Thawley rejected Google’s defence that users had been told
  • He ruled Android phone users were duped when creating a new Google account

A judge has slammed Google for failing to tell privacy-conscious users their location data was being stored.

The Californian search engine giant had argued smartphone users were clearly told Google would collect and use location data even when the location history was switched off.

But Federal Court Justice Thomas Thawley rejected that argument saying Google could have been clearer.

Google has been slammed for failing to tell privacy-conscious users about location data information being stored

He ruled on Friday that some users would have reached the correct conclusion but others, scanning through the warnings and terms, would have concluded the tech giant didn’t use their location data when the location history function was off.

‘True it is that, after a careful examination of the content of both screens, the conclusions Google urged might be reached,’ Justice Thawley said.

‘That is not the issue. The screens were read by users setting up the device.

‘Such users, even ones with heightened privacy concerns, would not re-read screens with the kind of careful attention that has been necessary in considering the various arguments put by the parties.’

The Californian search engine giant had argued smartphone users were clearly told Google would collect and use location data even when the location history was switched off. But Federal Court Justice Thomas Thawley rejected that argument saying Google could have been clearer

The Californian search engine giant had argued smartphone users were clearly told Google would collect and use location data even when the location history was switched off. But Federal Court Justice Thomas Thawley rejected that argument saying Google could have been clearer

Justice Thawley found Google had engaged in conduct that was liable to mislead the public as to the nature, the characteristics and the suitability for their services.

He concluded Android phone users were misled when creating a new Google account because the tech giant had wrongly told consumers their ‘location history’ was the the only Google account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept or used personally identifiable data about their location.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which launched legal proceedings against Google in October 2019, argued that its ‘web and app activity’ setting enabled it to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default.

Between January 2017 and December 2018, consumers mistakenly believed their ‘location history’ account setting was the only one that affected the collection of their personal location data.

Between January 2017 and December 2018, consumers mistakenly believed their 'location history' account setting was the only one that affected the collection of their personal location data. The offences mainly occurred before Mel Silva (pictured addressing a Senate hearing in January 2021) took over as the managing director of Google Australia in October 2018

Between January 2017 and December 2018, consumers mistakenly believed their ‘location history’ account setting was the only one that affected the collection of their personal location data. The offences mainly occurred before Mel Silva (pictured addressing a Senate hearing in January 2021) took over as the managing director of Google Australia in October 2018

The offences mainly occurred before Mel Silva took over as the managing director of Google Australia in October 2018. 

Rod Sims, the chairman of the competition regulator, said Google’s defence that users were adequately warned ‘ was simply not true’. 

‘Companies that collect information must explain their settings clearly and transparently so consumers are not misled,’ he said.

‘Consumers should not be kept in the dark when it comes to the collection of their personal location data.’

The court ruling slammed Google LLC, based at Mountain View in California, and its Australian subsidiary Google Australia.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk