Google is hit with big fine over Aussie privacy law breaches

By our News Team | 2022

Watchdog says the court’s decision sends a strong message to digital platforms and other businesses that they cannot mislead consumers.

Google has been ordered to pay AUS$60-million (US$41.5-million) in penalties by Australia’s Federal court for misleading representations it made to consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data.

The case, which was brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), refers to location data on Android phones between January 2017 and December 2018.

The court previously found that Google had breached Australian consumer law by representing to some Android users that the ‘location history’ setting was the only one that affected whether Google collected, kept and used personally identifiable location data.

Consumer Privacy

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But the ACCC claimed that another Google account setting called ‘web & app activity’ also allowed Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that the setting was turned on by default.

More than one million accounts potentially impacted

There were an estimated 1.3-million Google accounts in Australia that might have been affected, according to the commission.

Google had addressed all of the points raised by 20th December 2018. The ACCC and Google both jointly submitted to the court that a penalty of AU$60-million was therefore appropriate.

The case is the first public enforcement to come out of the ACCC’s digital platforms inquiry. Gina Cass-Gottlieb, Chair of the ACCC, said: “This significant penalty imposed by the court 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.

“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.”