ACCC Launches More Federal Court Action Against Google

Australian flag and a gavel on a sounding block

Australia’s competition watchdog the ACCC has launched Federal Court action against Google for allegedly misleading consumers about the use of personal data.

The ACCC claims Google failed to properly inform consumers or gain their explicit informed consent about a data collection policy change in 2016.

The move saw Google start to combine personal information in consumers’ Google accounts with information about activities on non-Google sites.

This information was then used for targeted advertising

“We are taking this action because we consider Google misled Australian consumers about what it planned to do with large amounts of their personal information, including internet activity on websites not connected to Google,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“Google significantly increased the scope of information it collected about consumers on a personally identifiable basis. This included potentially very sensitive and private information about their activities on third party websites. It then used this information to serve up highly targeted advertisements without consumers’ express informed consent.”

According to the ACCC, Google updated its privacy policy on 28 June 2016 by removing details for how it treated DoubleClick (Google’s ad-serving technology) data.

This allowed Google to collect and store a wider range of personally identifiable information and deliver more targeted advertising solutions.

“The use of this new combined information allowed Google to increase significantly the value of its advertising products, from which it generated much higher profits,” Sims said.

“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.”

However, a Google spokesperson told B&T the company explicitly asked users for their consent when accepting the changes.

“In June 2016, we updated our ads system and associated user controls to match the way people use Google products: across many different devices. The changes we made were optional and we asked users to consent via prominent and easy-to-understand notifications,” the spokesperson said.

“If a user did not consent, their experience of our products and services remained unchanged. We have cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation into this matter. We strongly disagree with their allegations and intend to defend our position.”

This latest court case comes as the ACCC continues with its ongoing case against Google over its use of location data.



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