The Federal Court of Australia has ordered a $60 million fine against Google for misleading Australian consumers about the collection and use of personal location data on Android phones between January 2017 and December 2018.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought proceedings against Google in 2019 over a breach of Australian Consumer Law regarding misrepresentations of the “location history” setting tile on Android phones. Google claimed that the “location history” setting title was the only setting that affected whether Google collected, kept, and used personally identifiable data about user locations. However, the “web & activity” tile also enabled Google access to user location data when it was turned on. More importantly, that tile was turned on by default. The ACCC contended that Google’s misrepresentations unduly influenced how users operated on Android phones. It is likely that users would have made different choices about the collection, storage, and use of their data if not been misled by Google. Ultimately, the Court agreed and held that this misrepresentation contravened the Australian Consumer Law and affected an estimated 1.3 million Australian consumers.
This decision is the first public enforcement outcome arising out of the ACCC’s Digital Platform Inquiry and the ACCC is hoping that such a severe financial penalty will send a message to other digital platforms to not mislead consumers about data use and collection. Google took appropriate measures to fix the misleading screens in 2018 but both Google and the ACCC agreed that the Court’s penalty was appropriate Additionally, the Court imposed orders on Google requiring the inclusion of transparent policies on its platform to ensure compliance with Australian Consumer Law.
With this recent win under the ACCC’s belt, one can only predict whether further crackdowns against digital platforms are to come.
Please feel free to contact us if you require advice on your obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.