Google Misled Consumers Over Data Location Setting, Australian Court Finds

Although Google denies any wrongdoing in how it configures location settings, Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) believes otherwise.

A federal court ruling says the company misled consumers by operating a confusing dual layer of location settings in what the regulator describes as a “world-first enforcement action brought on by the ACCC.”

The ACCC seeks declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders — all to be determined at a later date.

“In addition to penalties, we are seeking an order for Google to publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain Google’s location data settings in the future,” stated ACCC Chair Rod Sims. “This will ensure that consumers can make informed choices about whether certain Google settings that personal collect location data should be enabled.”



The document stated that the ACCC began proceedings against Google LLC and Google Australia Pty Ltd in October 2019. 

The ruling could set a precedent for future court cases and laws worldwide. Australia's case dates back to January 2017 and extends through December 2018. It focuses on personal location data collected by Google through Android mobile devices.

The Court ruled when consumers created a new Google account during the initial set-up process of their Android device, Google misrepresented that the setting--Location History--was the only Google setting that affected whether the company collected, kept or used personally identifiable data about their location.  This is not true.

Another Google setting — Web & App Activity — also enabled the company to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default, according to the court documents.

And when consumers went to turn their Location History setting on their Android device during the same time period, they were misled because Google did not inform them that by leaving on the Web & App Activity setting, the company would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiable location data.

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