Why Australian courts ought to drag Google for its doubtful location monitoring practices

April 20, 2021 by No Comments

The Australian Competitors and Shopper Fee has had a major win towards Google. The Federal Court docket discovered Google misled some Android customers about how one can disable private location monitoring.

Will this determination really change the conduct of the large tech corporations? The reply will rely upon the scale of the penalty awarded in response to the misconduct.


Learn extra: ACCC ‘world first’: Australia’s Federal Court docket discovered Google misled customers about private location information


In principle, the penalty is A$1.1 million per contravention. There’s a contravention every time an inexpensive particular person within the related class is misled. So the entire award may, in principle, quantity to many tens of millions of {dollars}.

However the precise penalty will rely upon how the court docket characterizes the misconduct. We imagine Google’s conduct shouldn’t be handled as a easy accident, and the Federal Court docket ought to difficulty a heavy positive to discourage Google and different corporations from behaving this manner in future.

Deceptive conduct and privateness settings

The case arose from the representations made by Google to customers of Android telephones in 2018 about the way it obtained private location information.

The Federal Court docket held Google had misled some shoppers by representing that “having Net & App Exercise turned ‘on’ wouldn’t enable Google to acquire, retain and use private information in regards to the person’s location”.

In different phrases, some shoppers had been misled into considering they may management Google’s location information assortment practices by switching “off” Location Historical past, whereas Net & App Exercise additionally wanted to be disabled to offer this safety.


Learn extra: The ACCC is suing Google for deceptive tens of millions. However calling it out is less complicated than fixing it


The ACCC additionally argued shoppers studying Google’s privateness assertion could be misled into considering private information was collected for their very own profit reasonably than Google’s. Nevertheless, the court docket dismissed this argument on the grounds that affordable customers wanting to show the Location Historical past “off”

would have assumed that Google was acquiring as a lot business benefit because it may from use of the person’s private location information.

That is stunning and would possibly deserve additional consideration from regulators involved to guard shoppers from firms “information harvesting” for revenue.

How a lot ought to Google pay?

The penalty and different enforcement orders towards Google might be made at a later date.

The goal of the penalty is to discourage Google particularly, and different companies like Google, from participating in deceptive conduct once more. If penalties are too low they might be handled by wrongdoing companies as merely a “price of doing enterprise”.

Nevertheless, in circumstances the place there’s a excessive diploma of company culpability, the Federal Court docket has proven willingness to award larger quantities than previously. This has occurred even the place the regulator has not sought larger penalties. Within the latest Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft v ACCC judgement, the total Federal Court docket confirmed an award of A$125 million towards Volkswagen for making false representations about compliance with Australian diesel emissions requirements.