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This article was published on April 16, 2021

Here’s what’s happening with Google’s location tracking case in Australia

An Australian court ruled that Google had 'misled' Android users

Here’s what’s happening with Google’s location tracking case in Australia
Thomas Macaulay
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Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC. Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC.

Google’s data collection practices have landed the search giant in hot water down under.

Australia’s federal court found that the company had misled Android users about the location data collected through their mobile devices.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched the legal action against Google back in 2019.

It argued that if a consumer disabled the “Location History” setting on their device, but left “Web & App Activity” on, Google continued to collect, store, and use their personally identifiable location data.

Credit: ACCC
The case revolved around data collected between 2017 and 2018.

Justice Thomas Thawley agreed that the firm had “partially” misled some users and thereby contravened Australian consumer law. The penalty will be determined at a later date.

[Read: The biggest tech trends of 2021, according to 3 founders]

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said he was pleased by the outcome of the “world-first case:”

Between January 2017 and December 2018, consumers were led to believe that ‘Location History’ was the only account setting that affected the collection of their personal location data, when that was simply not true. Companies that collect information must explain their settings clearly and transparently so consumers are not misled. Consumers should not be kept in the dark when it comes to the collection of their personal location data.

Inevitably, Google wasn’t quite so cheery. A Google spokesperson said the firm was considering an appeal:

The court rejected many of the ACCC’s broad claims. We disagree with the remaining findings and are currently reviewing our options, including a possible appeal.

Australia is certainly keeping Google busy. In February, the country passed a new law that will force the firm to pay local news outlets for linking their content in news feeds or search results.

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