Australia sues Google over location data privacy

SYDNEY • An Australian regulator has filed a lawsuit against Alphabet's Google, accusing it of misleading smartphone users about how it collected and used personal location data, advancing a global crackdown on the world's biggest tech firms.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the local Google unit did not tell users of its Android operating system for almost two years that they needed to switch off two settings - not one - if they did not want the company to keep their information.

"Google's conduct caused users to understand that personal data about their location was not being obtained... by Google when in fact personal data was being obtained," the commission wrote yesterday in a federal court filing, which it published on its website.

"The misleading information provided by Google meant that users were not able to make an informed choice."

A Google spokesman said that the firm would defend the matter, that it was reviewing the commission's allegations and that it would continue to engage with the regulator.

The commission said in its lawsuit that Google failed to make clear that people should turn off two location-based settings, Location History and Web & App Activity, to stop the company collecting and using data from either.

Google further misled consumers - and breached Australian consumer law - by telling them the only way to prevent the company from collecting their location data was to stop using its main services, such as Google Search and Google Maps, the regulator said.

"We want significant penalties and... we want Google to have to let people know what has gone on, so that people have a greater awareness of what data is actually being collected here and what it is being used for," the commission's chairman Rodney Sims told reporters in Sydney.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2019, with the headline Australia sues Google over location data privacy. Subscribe