Orlando Sentinel

Judge rules Google misled Android users

- By Rod McGuirk

CANBERRA, Australia — Google broke Australian law by misleading users about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices, a judge found Friday.

The Federal Court decision was a partial win for the Australian Competitio­n and Consumer Commission, the nation’s fair trade watchdog, which has been prosecutin­g Google for broader alleged breaches of consumer law since October 2019.

Justice Thomas Thawley found that Google misled Android mobile device users about personal location data collected between January 2017 and December 2018. “This is an important victory for consumers, especially anyone concerned about their privacy online, as the court’s decision sends a strong message to Google and others that big businesses must not mislead their customers,” Commission Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

Google is considerin­g an appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court.

The judge ruled that when users created a new Google account during the initial setup process of their Android device, Google misreprese­nted that the “Location History” setting was the only Google account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept or used personally identifiab­le data about their location.

But another Google account setting titled “Web & App Activity” also enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiab­le location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default.

The judge also found that when users later accessed the “Location History” setting on their Android device during the same time period to turn that setting off, they were also misled because Google did not inform them that by leaving the “Web & App Activity” setting switched on, Google would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiab­le location data.

Google said the digital platform provides “robust controls for location data and are always looking to do more.”

The commission is seeking court orders and financial penalties against Google.

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