Thu | Dec 12, 2019

Google sued by Australian regulators over location tracking

Published:Tuesday | October 29, 2019 | 11:14 AM
In this November 1, 2018, file photo, the Google logo at their offices in Granary Square, London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s consumer watchdog sued Google on Tuesday alleging the technology giant broke consumer law by misleading Android users about how their location data was collected and used.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission accused Google of collecting information on users’ whereabouts even after they had switched off the location setting.

“You could have been walking around the city ... thinking that your location history wasn’t being collected, when in fact it was being collected and it was being kept,” commission Chairman Rod Sims said.

An Associated Press investigation last year revealed that several Google apps and websites stored user location even if the user had turned off the Location History setting.

To stop Google from saving these location markers, users had to turn off another setting, Web and App Activity. That setting, enabled by default, does not specifically reference location information.

Google later clarified in a help page how the Location History works, but it didn’t change the location-tracking practice.

Huge tech companies are under increasing scrutiny over their data practices, following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and new data-privacy rules in Europe.

Critics say Google’s insistence on tracking its users’ locations stems from its drive to boost advertising revenue.

It can charge advertisers more if they want to narrow ad delivery to people who’ve visited certain locations.

The Australian commission began proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia alleging Google breached the law through a series of on-screen representations made as users set up Google accounts on their Android phones and tablets.

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