Google fined $43M by Australian court for misleading users over data

FILE – The Google logo is displayed at their offices on Nov. 1, 2018, in Granary Square, in London. Google’s revenue growth during the past quarter decelerated to its slowest pace in two years as advertisers reined in their spending amid intensifying fears of an economic recession. The regression reported Tuesday, July 26, 2022, by Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet, is the latest sign that the tailwinds propelling big technology companies during the pandemic have shifted into a challenging new direction. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

An Australian court has ordered Google to pay roughly $43 million ($60 million AUD) for misleading users about the collection and use of their location data, an Australian competition watchdog said Friday. 

The court found Google breached Australian Consumer Law between January 2017 and December 2018 by misrepresenting to some Android users what settings allowed Google to collect and use personal location data, according to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s announcement. 

The court found that Google represented to some users that the “Location History” setting was the only one that affected whether Google collected, kept and used data about a user’s location, but another “Web & App Activity” setting also let it collect and use the data when turned on, the watchdog said. 

“This significant penalty imposed by the Court today 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,” Australian Competition & Consumer Commission Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in a statement. 

“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 watchdog estimates that 1.3 million Google account users in Australia may have been impacted.

Google took remedial steps to address the issue by December 2018, according to the competition watchdog. 

A Google spokesperson confirmed they agreed to settle the case. 

“We’ve invested heavily in making location information simple to manage and easy to understand with industry-first tools like auto-delete controls, while significantly minimising the amount of data stored. As we’ve demonstrated, we’re committed to making ongoing updates that give users control and transparency, while providing the most helpful products possible,”  the spokesperson said in a statement.

Tags Australia data data privacy Data privacy Google Google location data User data

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