Why Australia Fines Google for Data Collection

by Redazione Start Magazine

Australia's Federal Court fined Google $60 million for misrepresenting its users' location data. The Agi article

Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, will have to pay a fine of $60 million, OR $42.7 million, for "making misleading statements to consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data on Android phones between January 2017 and December 2018." This was decided by the Australian Federal Court following proceedings initiated against Google by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (also ACCC) in October 2019.

Although location history was turned off, Google still collected users' geolocation data (the estimate is 1.3 million accounts involved), and targeted ad-hoc and personalized ads to them accordingly. The company accepted the payment proposal.

The company is facing an investigation, launched in February 2020, into the same practices in Europe as well, where it could be exposed to a larger fine if it is found that it has violated the General Data Protection Regulation (penalties can reach up to 4% of global annual turnover).

And that's not all. Earlier this summer, European consumer rights groups filed a new set of complaints against Google, accusing the giant of misleading design advertising, such that it would push users to accept extensive and invasive processing of their data. Google's activity is also dominated by the Digital Service Act, which aims to increase the responsibility of Big Tech, with even higher fines (up to 6% of annual turnover).

In Australia, the Mountain View-based company has been accused of providing incorrect and biased information to users, saying that the only setting the company collects geolocation data is Location History. However, there is another setting (web and app activity) that allows Google to obtain data on the location of each user. And it is moreover a setting activated by default.

According to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Google led users to believe that setting "location history" on their Android phones was the only way location data could be collected from it, when a feature to monitor web and application activity also allowed local data collection and storage.

According to the regulator, from 2018 onwards Google has changed the way data is collected in line with Australian legislation and making it easier and more intuitive to set up on the smartphone.

"This significant sanction imposed today 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 collected and used," said Gina Cass-Gottlieb, Chair of the ACCC.

"We can confirm that we have agreed to resolve the issue of historic conduct from 2017 to 2018," a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch, "we have invested heavily in making location information simple to manage and understand with industry-leading tools such as auto-delete controls, significantly minimizing the amount of data stored. As we have shown, we are committed to making continuous updates that give users control and transparency, while providing the most useful products possible."