In a statement, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it had sued both the American company Google and the local outfit, Google Australia, claiming that they had breached Australian Consumer Law between at least January 2017 until late 2018.
When consumers set up an Android mobile device, they were not properly told what settings they had to adjust in order to ensure that location data was not collected.
The case focuses on the settings Location History and Web & App Activity. Both had to be turned off to ensure location data was not collected.
“We allege that Google misled consumers by staying silent about the fact that another setting also had to be switched off.”
“Many consumers make a conscious decision to turn off settings to stop the collection of their location data, but we allege that Google’s conduct may have prevented consumers from making that choice.”
The watchdog also claimed that from about mid-2018 until late 2018, Google indicated that the only way consumers could prevent the collection, retention and use of location data was by not using certain Google services, including Google Search and Google Maps. But the ACCC pointed out that this could be achieved by switching off both the settings mentioned.
An AP report in August 2018 uncovered the fact that turning off Location history would not prevent location data from being collected by Google. The same month, a man in San Diego, California, sued the search company over what he characterised as a "deceptive practice".
Reacting to the ACCC move, Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said: "The average person would be astounded at the level and range of data digital platforms like Google have about them.
It’s up to the ACCC to use the laws at its disposal to ensure consumers are protected, particularly in this day and age when we carry the Internet around with us on our mobile phones and smart watches.
"Mobile towers, Wi-Fi hotspots and apps like Google Maps bring great convenience to our lives. Let’s not kid ourselves, they also track our location and interactions, and this data is being monetised. It’s in everyone’s interest that consumers make informed choices about whether their data is collected and used."