Australia: court sanctions Google over data collection

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Sydney | Google broke the law on collecting location data by deceiving users of the Android operating system on portable devices, an Australian court ruled in a landmark ruling on Friday.

The US tech giant could have to pay fines of up to “several million” dollars in connection with the case which has been taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), a indicated Rod Sims, its director.

The federal court ruled that in 2017 and 2018, Google deceived some users of phones and tablets equipped with its Android operating system by collecting their location information even when they had chosen not to share the data from the ‘”Location history”.

In particular, it ruled that Google had not specified that allowing tracking of “Web and App Activity” as a separate setting on their devices included location data.

Numerous studies conducted around the world have shown that the collection of location data by Android and iPhone devices is done without users’ knowledge or their explicit consent.

Such data is particularly valuable for advertisers who offer products and services based on location.

For Mr. Sims, this is the first such decision rendered in the world.

“This is an important victory for consumers, especially for anyone concerned about their online privacy, as the court ruling sends a strong message to Google and other companies: Big businesses shouldn’t deceive their customers, ”he said.

In his ruling, Federal Court Judge Thomas Thawley “partially” accepted the ACCC’s complaint against Google, noting that the “company’s behavior would not have deceived all sane users” of its service.

However, he clarified that Google “has misled or was likely to mislead certain sane users” and that “the number or proportion of sane users who have been or were likely to be, does not does not matter ”to establish the offense.

The ACCC intends to obtain fines of up to $ 850,000 (€ 710,000) per violation, or a total of “several million” dollars, Sims told ABC television.

For its part, Google protested against this decision, which, according to the giant, rejects certain “general requests” of the ACCC and concerns only certain users, and declared to examine the possibility of an appeal.