Aussie consumer watchdog sues Google for privacy breaches

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google privacy breach consumer watchdog

Image: Bill Bradford, via Flickr / CC

 

Google’s list of lawsuits continues to pile up. An Australian consumer watchdog has sued the search giant on Monday. It charged Google of misleading its account owners on the use of personal data.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission went to the Federal Court to launch the latest court case against Google. It joins several other litigations worldwide over charges of privacy breaches against the firm.

The commission claims the US-based firm misled millions of Australians. Users unknowingly gave Google more personal information and internet activity to target advertising.

The charges came from a move in 2016. Google combined users’ personal information in their accounts with information from those users’ activities on third-party sites using Google technology to display ads. This was formerly known as DoubleClick technology.

“We allege that Google did not obtain explicit consent from customers to take this step,” said commission chair Rod Sims.

“The ACCC considers that consumers effectively pay for Google’s services with their data, so this change introduced by Google increased the ‘price’ of Google’s services, without consumers’ knowledge,” he added.

Google said it worked with the commission during investigation and its account holders consented to “prominent and easy-to-understand notifications.”

“We strongly disagree with their allegations and intend to defend our position,” the firm said.

Google has been working with the commission recently. They helped Australia plan actions against digital platforms like Facebook to pay for content tapped from news media.

The watchdog will issue draft rules this week to pay fair compensation for news media content after the COVID-19 pandemic cut ad revenue for legacy media.

A string of lawsuits

UK regulators want new rules to push fair competition in digital advertising markets. And it wants to restrain major players like Google and Facebook in the process.

The Competition and Markets Authority have aimed at giant tech firms. Its report encourages the UK government to follow new regulations in regulating big digital platforms that earn from online ads.

Google started tweaking its privacy settings last month to store less data on new users by default. It also automatically deleted web and app activities and location history after 18 months.

The highest administrative court in France last month fined Google about 50 million euros (US$ 56 million). The firm paid for being insufficiently clear and transparent with Android users’ options for data protection.

Google Canada left its smart-city development in Toronto over privacy concerns and economic uncertainty due to the pandemic.

The Australian government has yet to announce what penalty Google might face if the latter loses the lawsuit. The watchdog has multiple charges of consumer law breaches with a maximum fine of 1.1 million Australian dollars each.

Australia fortified penalties in 2018. But 2016 rules will apply to Google.


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Author: Francis Rey

Francis is a voracious reader and prolific writer. He has been writing about social media and technology for more than 10 years. During off hours, he relishes moments with his wife and daughter.

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