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Google was penalized $42 million for deceiving Australian users about data collection

To resolve allegations that it misled its Australian customers about how to opt out of the collection of their personal location data, Google was ordered to pay 60 million Australian dollars (U.S. $42 million).

According to a press release issued on Friday by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), a federal court in Australia ordered Google to pay the fines "for making misleading representations to consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data on Android phones between January 2017 and December 2018." (ACCC).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sued Google and its subsidiary, Google Australia, for allegedly breaking Australian Consumer Law by failing to disclose to users that they needed to disable two settings in two different places in order to effectively stop the company from collecting location data. There was no separate penalty for Google Australia.

According to the ACCC, about 1.3 million Australian Google users were misled into thinking they had stopped the company from collecting their location data by choosing not to allow Google to do so in a setting called "Location History." The same information was nevertheless gathered by Google in a different setting called "Web & App Activity" that was set to be enabled by default.

In the press release, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said, "This significant penalty imposed by the court today sends a strong message to digital platforms and other businesses, large and small, that they must not mislead consumers about how their data is being collected and used."

According to the ACCC, Google fixed the issue by December 2018 to stop Australian users from seeing the false opt-out screens for location data collection. Google was also ordered by the court to "“ensure its policies include a commitment to compliance and to train certain staff about Australian Consumer Law, as well as to pay a contribution to the ACCC’s costs," according to the court's ruling.

In order for consumers to make wise decisions about who they share their data with, Cass-Gottlieb said that businesses need to be transparent about the types of data they are collecting, how the data is collected, and how it may be used.

The case, according to the ACCC, was the first public enforcement stemming from its investigation into digital platforms.

According to a Google spokesperson, the business decided to resolve the issue.

The spokesman said in an email: "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 minimizing the amount of data stored. As we’ve demonstrated, we’re committed to making ongoing updates that give users control and transparency while providing the most helpful products possible."


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