Google ‘partially’ misled consumers over collecting location data, Australian court finds

Google has been found to have “partially” misled Australian consumers about collecting their location data, according to a federal court ruling handed down on Friday.

The court found that Google continued to collect “Location History” and “Web & App Activity” on some Android and Pixel phones, even for customers who ticked “No” or “Do not collect” on their settings.

The action was brought by the consumer rights watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which alleged that Google breached the consumer law and misled consumers.

If a customer said no to “Location History”, but left “Web & App Activity” switched on, Google continued to collect location data, the ACCC said.

In a judgment published on Friday, Justice Thomas Thawley said this was “partially” misleading.

Thawley said that some consumers would have been misled, and reasonably believed this data would not be collected, and others would not have.

The multinational tech company was found to have breached sections 18, 29(1)(g) and 34 of the consumer law.

Thawley said that users “acting reasonably” would not have thought that saying yes to “Web and App Activity” tracking would also give permission to use “location data”.

This was due to “the absence of any specific reference to location” in the webform, he said.

“The ACCC submitted that the first representation was misleading because if the Web & App Activity setting was turned ‘on’, Google continued to collect and store such data,” Thawley said. “I accept this submission.

“Google’s conduct would not have misled all reasonable users in the classes identified; but Google’s conduct misled or was likely to mislead some reasonable users within the particular classes identified.

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“The number or proportion of reasonable users who were misled, or were likely to have been misled, does not matter for the purposes of establishing contravention.”

More to come …



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