ACCC alleges Google misled consumers over location data collection and usage

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken a number of big businesses to task over the last few years for the way they have conducted business within the country. Valve found itself in the crosshairs of the Aussie consumer watchdog last year for misleading customers about refunds while Apple was caught out for misrepresentations regarding consumer rights and repairs.

Now, the ACCC has another tech giant in its sights in the form of Google over the "personal location data Google collects, keeps and uses". The body has alleged that the Mountain View company failed to properly inform consumers with respect to Android's "Location History" feature and the fact that both it and "Web & App Activity" had to be disabled to prevent any further data collection. Furthermore, the competition regulator has alleged that Google made misrepresentations that the only way to stop the company from "collecting, keeping and using their location data was to stop using certain Google services" despite being possible by disabling both features.

Regarding the allegations, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said:

"Our case is that consumers would have understood as a result of this conduct that by switching off their ‘Location History’ setting, Google would stop collecting their location data, plain and simple.

We allege that Google misled consumers by staying silent about the fact that another setting also had to be switched off.

Many consumers make a conscious decision to turn off settings to stop the collection of their location data, but we allege that Google’s conduct may have prevented consumers from making that choice."

Google is also on the hook with regards to the way it stated on-screen that it would use location data. According to the ACCC's media release, in that collected data "would only be collected and used by Google for the consumer’s use of Google services" but was actually used for "purposes unrelated to the consumer’s use of Google’s services".

On this point, Mr Sims commented that:

"We consider that because of Google’s failure to disclose this use of data, consumers were and still are deprived of the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether to share their personal location data with Google."

While Google reviews the allegations made by the ACCC, the company faces the prospect of penalties and the implementation of corrective actions should it be found guilty in Federal Court.

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