Google accused of misleading consumers by Australian regulator

The ACCC, Australian Competition, and Consumer Commission have filed a complaint against Google in the Australian Federal Court. The complaint accuses the search engine of misleading consumers into accepting the company’s terms to access their personal information.

Google is free to use search engine which capitalizes by running advertisements. Thus, the company treasures user data to show targeted ads by tracking their virtual activities on their own and other websites.

Commission Chairman, Rod Sims says that users were tricked into accepting terms that they did not fully understand due to its wordings. He further informed that the commission is looking forward to setting a precedence by this case to protect user data and is seeking a fine “in millions”.


The Complaint

The filed complaint to the Australian Federal court states that Google changed a statement in the privacy policy in 2016 to dubiously seek user permission/consent to access their personal information.

Previously, the company’s privacy policy stated that the company will not combine “cookies” data from its advertisements to display business with user personal information. Now, this statement has been changed to “depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and apps may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google services.”

The regulator alleges that Google, deliberately, failed to notify the Australian consumers of this change in the privacy policy to boost revenue earnings from targeted advertising. Chairman Sims said, “this change was worth a lot of money to Google  and we allege they’ve achieved it through misleading behavior.”

Hoping to bring a change in how tech giants like Google mislead consumers to gain their data, Chairman Sims also said:

“This is an action we are taking that others have not. We will keep taking action, as will agencies overseas, and it will shape how these platforms behave, to make sure that the internet is a benefit to users, not a detriment.”

Google’s Response

A Google spokesman said that the company will defend its decision to change the privacy policy and the consumers were not misled. The person said that the consumer consent was gained by easy to understand notifications and “if a user did not consent, their experience of our products and services remained unchanged.”

Having said that, Google-backed advertisers who criticized Apple’s new iOS 14 privacy feature which notifies iPhone users when their information copied on the clipboard is read by apps and websites. The group claims that the iPhone maker is disrupting the web advertising business model. The search engine giant is also facing another $5 billion lawsuit for tracking users in Chrome Incognito mode.

User data privacy is often breached by free to use web services like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and others to run targeted ads which is a major source of income for those companies. It is a welcoming move by the Australian regulators to take a stand for the consumers and hold the tech giants accountable for their dubious deeds.

via Reuters

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