Google Found Guilty Of Tricking Customers

( Google might have a firm grip over the United States government, but it doesn’t have so much support in Australia. This week, a Federal Australian Court found the Big Tech search giant guilty of misleading customers over how it used their personal data.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission first took legal action against Google in October 2019, accusing the search and tech giant of misleading customers about how they collected data from Android mobile devices.

“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,” Rod Sims, the chairman of the ACCC said about the victory.

Sims added that it was an important step towards ensuring that digital platforms are upfront with consumers about how they collect data and what happens to their data when it’s collected – including information about their location.

In the lawsuit, the ACCC claimed that Google had breached Australian consumer laws from January 2017 at the least, after giving Android cell phone and tablet users a false impression about their ability to opt out of Google obtaining their location data.

Consumers were easily fooled into believing that their location was not being monitored or collected by Google when they turned the “Location History” feature off – but that wasn’t the case.

The court ruled against Googled because users, unbeknownst to them, had to turn off both “web & app activity” as well as “location history” in order to switch off location data collection entirely. It meant that millions of users could have had their location tracked by Google even when they thought they weren’t.

Justice Thomas Thawley concluded in the case that Google’s conduct would not have misled all users, but that it would have misled some reasonable users.

In short, Google’s actions misled reasonable people – who may not have been particularly skilled at using modern technology – into thinking they weren’t being tracked.

“The number or proportion of reasonable users who were misled, or were likely to have been misled, does not matter for the purposes of establishing contraventions,” Judge Thawley ruled.

The chairman of the ACCC said that he was “absolutely delighted” with the decision – and for Americans concerned about Google’s dominance in the market, it could be a sign of things to come.

If Google starts making changes to avoid future lawsuits like this, that’s only a good thing for consumers.

The ruling was the first of its kinds in the world, specifically with regards to how Big Tech collects data.