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Google Sued For Misleading Oz Consumers About Combining Personal Data

The ACCC has launched Federal Court proceedings against Google for allegedly misleading Australian consumers to obtain their consent to expand the scope of personal data that Google could collect and collate on consumers’ internet activity.

The Australian watchdog has alleged that Google failed to properly inform consumers and did not gain explicit, informed consent in 2016, when it began combining information from personal Google accounts with information about individuals’ activities on non-Google sites that used Google technology (that is, DoubleClick technology, which displays ads).

This change saw users’ non-Google online activity linked to their names and other identifying information held by Google.

The ACCC believes this has impacted millions of Australians with Google accounts.

“We believe that many consumers, if given an informed choice, may have refused Google permission to combine and use such a wide array of their personal information for Google’s own financial benefit,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims.

An example of the notification in question published by Google from 28 June 2016

Google used this newly combined information to improve the commercial performance of its advertising businesses.

Google account holders were prompted to agree to this with a pop-up notification from June 2016 until at least December 2018.

“We are taking this action because we consider Google misled Australian consumers about what it planned to do with large amounts of their personal information, including internet activity on websites not connect to Google,” said Sims.

“Google significantly increased the scope of information it collected about consumers on a personally identifiable basis. This included potentially very sensitive and private information about their activities on third party websites. It then used this information to serve up highly targeted advertisements without consumers’ express informed consent.”



Google has strongly denied these allegations and has stated they intend to defend their position.

“In June 2016, we updated our ads system and associated user controls to match the way people use Google products: across many different devices. The changes we made were optional and we asked users to consent via prominent and easy-to-understand notifications. If a user did not consent, their experience of our products and services remained unchanged. We have cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation into this matter. We strongly disagree with their allegations and intend to defend our position,” a Google spokesperson told ChannelNews.

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