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  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced today it will be suing Google and its Australian division over claims of misleading Android mobile users
  • The concerns over data collection and privacy stem from an ACCC digital platforms enquiry report that details worrying “market power” held by the likes of Facebook and Google
  • ACCC Chair Rod Sims says the issue is that Google led mobile users to believe turning off a single setting in the phone would protect their data — but it turns out a second function must also be disabled as well
  • The ACCC is seeking to slap Google with penalties in the millions and pose an issuing of corrective notices
  • Google has been outspoken today on fighting the claims which will reach doors outside Australian Federal Court

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will be suing tech-giant Google over allegations of misusing user privacy data.

Concern stems from the ACCC’s digital platforms enquiry report that details worrying “market power” held by the likes of Facebook and Google.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims is chasing up the digital Google kingpin for misleading Android mobile users on collection of location data.

“Everyone was misled,” he said today.

Reportedly, Google misinformed users on the required steps to disable the company’s ability to track location data from as far back as January 2017.

Until now, Android users believed they could block Google’s all-seeing eye by switching off the ‘Location History’ setting. It instead turns out a second setting, called ‘Web and Activity’, must also be disabled as well.

Image sourced from the ACCC

“We alleged, in a sense, everyone was misled because they thought any location history turned off would mean their location history was off,” Rod said.

“[Google] can build up an even better profile of what you do with your life.”

Advertising revenue

Most damning from these revelations maybe something more sinister, however.

According to the ACCC, Google said it was using its data collection to improve its services. Instead, the data was being sold for advertising, like many companies do around the world today.

Image sourced from the ACCC

Rod showed no remorse in keeping the Silicon Valley famous company accountable — regardless that it relies on advertising as a major slice in revenue.

“This is a world first case. This action in relation to misrepresentations over the data Google keeps, makes and uses has never been taken before,” Rod said.

“We want consumers to be well engaged in the economy, they can only make choices if they have the information to make that choice. And if you’re told that your location history is turned off, but you’re still being tracked when it is turned off, that is a classic misrepresentation.”

Google not backing down

The ACCC will sue both Google LLC and its official Australian Division under the roof of Australian Federal Court.

If the watchdog wins, Rod says it plans to fine Google a hefty amount, as well as issuing corrective notices and to construct a compliance program.

“We’ll be seeking penalties in the millions,” Rod promised.

“Step one is we’ve got to win the case.”

Other companies aren’t safe from Rod’s firing line either. On speaking about other major tech companies selling off data, the ACCC Chair said Google is not an isolated case.

“I imagine we’ll be taking further action [with the likes of Google] in the future and it’ll be a bit to do with data but it’ll be on broader issues as well.”

Google is yet to file a defence but is outspoken on plans to fight the claims.

“We are currently reviewing the details of these allegations,” a Google spokeswoman said today.

“We continue to engage with the ACCC and intend to defend this matter.”

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