Science & Technology

Australian regulator sues Google over use of personal data

Sydney, Australia, Jul 27 (efe-epa).- Australia’s consumer rights watchdog announced on Monday that it had launched legal action against Google, alleging the tech giant misled millions of people to collect their personal data for targeted advertising.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) lawsuit, filed with the Federal Court, argues that Google failed to properly inform consumers and did not obtain their explicit informed consent about combining their personal information from Google accounts with that of their browsing activities on non-Google websites, according to a statement from the ACCC.

“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,” ACCC Chair Rob Sims said in a statement.

The company then used the information to “serve up highly targeted advertisements without consumers’ express informed consent,” he alleged, adding that the use of the combined information “allowed Google to increase significantly the value of its advertising products, from which it generated much higher profits.”

From June 28, 2016 to at least December 2018, Google prompted its users to click “I agree” to consent to the changes. The prompt said the company had “introduced some optional features for your account, giving you more control over the data Google collects and how it’s used, while allowing Google to show you more relevant ads.”

Before June 2016, Google only collected and used, for advertising purposes, personally identifiable information about user activities on their own platforms.

After the prompt, the ACCC said, “Google began to collect and store a much wider range of personally identifiable information about the online activities of Google account holders, including their use of third-party sites and apps not owned by Google.”

Combined with the stored personal data in Google accounts, the move provided the company with “valuable information with which to sell even more targeted advertising,” ACC claims.

The ACCC said that consumers could not have understood the changes nor how their data would be used, and therefore did not and could not give informed consent.

“We believe that many consumers, if given an informed choice, may have refused Google permission to combine and use such a wide array of their personal information for Google’s own financial benefit,” Sims said.

In October last year, the ACCC sued Google for allegedly misleading consumers about the collection, storage, and use of personal location data between 2017 and 2018. EFE-EPA

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