Australian consumer watchdog sues Google over location data

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian consumer watchdog on Tuesday took Google to court alleging the technology giant broke consumer law by misleading Android users about how their location data was used.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission accused Google of collecting information on a users' whereabouts even after they had switched off the location setting.

The commission began proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia alleging Google breached the law through a series of on-screen representations made as users set up Google accounts on their Android mobile phones and tabloids

"We are taking court action against Google because we allege that as a result of these on-screen representations Google has collected, kept and used highly sensitive and valuable personal information about consumers' location without them making an informed choice," commission chairman Rod Sims said.

"This is a world-first case. This action — in relation to misrepresentations in relation to the data Google collects, keeps and uses —has never been taken before," he added.

Google said it was reviewing the allegations.

"We continue to engage with the ACCC and intend to defend this matter," Google said in a statement.

The commission alleges that between January 2017 and late 2018, people setting up their

Google accounts on phones and tablets would have incorrectly believed that "Location History" was the only setting that affected whether the company was collecting a user's location data.

In fact, the setting "Web & App Activity" also had to be switched off if users didn't want their location data collected.

"When people had their location history turned off, they may have felt that Google was not collecting their location data and recording it and keeping it, but in fact they were," Sims said.

"So you could have been walking around the city ... thinking that your location history wasn't being collected, when in fact it was being collected and it was being kept," he added.

Sims said the watchdog believed some of the alleged behavior has continued. His commission will ask Google to admit the actions and promise to stop.

The commission also plans to ask the court to impose penalties, he said.

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