Google slapped with $60 million fine for misleading customers about data collection

Australia's watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), is well-known for going after companies who mislead customers or engaging in anti-competitive practices. Most recently, it fined Samsung $14 million for inaccurate claims about the waterproof nature of its Galaxy devices, filed a lawsuit against Uber for misleading fares, and also sued Meta for fraudulent crypto ads on Facebook. Today, it has slapped Google with a $60 million fine for misleading Australian customers about data collection practices.

A gavel in the background with Google logo on the top left corner and Australia flag on the bottom r
Original gavel image via Brian Turner / Flickr

The case has been going on since October 2019, with the ACCC alleging that Google is not being sufficiently clear about its data collection practices. It highlighted that Google could still access and retain location data even if location history was disabled. This is due to location data still being collected if the "Web & App Activity" toggle is left on and then a user utilizes a Google app. In essence, both toggles had to be disabled for Google to stop collecting your location data, and the ACCC emphasized that this wasn't made clear to the end-user.

Although Google had already fixed the problem in December 2018, the ACCC saw fit to retrospectively fine the company for misleading customers during the period of 2017-2018.

In April 2021, the court ruled against Google saying that it did "partially" mislead its customers. Today, after much back and forth, Google and the ACCC have agreed to a $60 million penalty. ACCC Chairperson Gina Cass-Gottlieb noted that:

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.

[...] 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.

Both parties have agreed that $60 million is a "fair and reasonable" fine, and the court has agreed that the amount is also suitable to deter any future breaches in this space.

Source: ACCC via The Guardian

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