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Google Cops $60 Million Fine From Australian Federal Court

The Federal Court has ordered Google to pay $60 million in penalties for “making misleading representations to consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data on Android phones:.

The breach of Australian Consumer Law occurred between January 2017 and December 2018, when Google represented to some Android  users that the ‘Location History’ setting was the only account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept and used personally identifiable data about their location. In actuality, the ‘Web and App Activity’ setting also enabled Google to collect, store, and use personal location data. This setting was ‘on’ by default.

“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,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

Credit: Google/Gerd Altmann, modified by IDG Comm

“Google, one of the world’s largest companies, was able to keep the location data collected through the “Web & App Activity” setting and that retained data could be used by Google to target ads to some consumers, even if those consumers had the “Location History” setting turned off.”

“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.”

The ACCC estimates that 1.3 million Australian Google account users were impacted by the breach.

“Companies need to be transparent about the types of data that they are collecting and how the data is collected and may be used, so that consumers can make informed decisions about who they share that data with,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“This is the first public enforcement outcome arising out of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.”

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