Google to Settle ‘Misleading’ Location Data Collection Case With $60 Million Penance

Google to Settle ‘Misleading’ Location Data Collection Case With $60 Million Penance

Google will be paying $60 million in penalties to settle claims that it misled some users about personal location data collected through Android devices for two years.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) back in 2019 claimed that Google misled consumers about the location data collected on Android devices.

At the time, it alleged that during 2017 and 2018, Google did not inform Australians that they needed to have the ‘Location History’ setting within Android, as well as the Web & App Activity setting, disabled to prevent Google storing location data. The government body claims Google did not properly disclose that users had to manually switch off both settings for Google not to collect their data.

In April last year, the Federal Court agreed with the ACCC’s claims. It found that Google LLC and Google Australia Pty Ltd had breached the Australian Consumer Law by representing to some Android users that Location History was the only Google account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept and used personally identifiable data about their location.

“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,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in a statement.

According to the ACCC, the users of 1.3 million Google accounts in Australia may have viewed a screen found by the Court to have breached the Australian Consumer Law. While the case surrounds Australian Consumer Law, it doesn’t mean Google is in breach of Australia’s Privacy Act.

Google had addressed the issues raised by the ACCC by December 2018 and a lot of this case centred on Google’s choice of language at the time.

A spokesperson for Google Australia confirmed with Gizmodo Australia that the search giant had agreed to settle the matter and that investments had been made to make the whole process a little easier to understand.

“We’ve invested heavily in making location information simple to manage and easy to understand with industry-first tools like auto-delete controls, while significantly minimising the amount of data stored,” they said.

“As we’ve demonstrated, we’re committed to making ongoing updates that give users control and transparency, while providing the most helpful products possible.”