The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that Google was fined $60 million for misleading Australian Android users regarding the collection and use of their location data for almost two years, between January 2017 and December 2018.
The Australian competition watchdog said the tech giant continued tracking some of its users’ Android phones even though they had disabled “Location History” in the device’s settings.
While customers were misled into thinking that setting would disable location tracking, another account setting turned on by default and named “Web & App Activity” enabled the company “to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data.”
ACCC says that based on available data, it is estimated that more than 1.3 million Google accounts belonging to Australians have been affected.
“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,” said ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.
“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.”
Australia’s competition watchdog started proceedings against Google in October 2019. In April 2021, the Australian Federal Court found that the search giant had breached the Australian Consumer Law by misleading customers about the collection and use of their location data.
Google took remedial steps and addressed all issues that led to this fine by 20 December 2018, with users no longer shown misleading information suggesting that pausing location history will stop collecting info about the places they go with their devices.
“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 added.
In January, France’s National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) has also fined Google $170 million for making it difficult for website visitors to reject tracking cookies by hiding this option behind multiple clicks, which was an infringement of the freedom of consent of internet users.
Previously, Google was also fined $11.3 million for aggressive data collection, €220 million for favoring its services to the disadvantage of competitors, $1.7 billion for anti-competitive practices in online advertising, and $2.72 billion for abusing its dominant market position to tweak search results.