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Australia competition regulator sues Google for misleading customers about collecting personal data
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Australia competition regulator sues Google for misleading customers about collecting personal data

The Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) filed suit against Google on Monday, alleging that Google misled consumers to obtain consent to expand the type of personal data that Google can collect. Google allegedly used this information for a variety of purposes, including targeted advertising.

From June 2016 through December 2018, Google account holders were prompted to agree to a pop-up Google notification that asked for consumers’ consent to combine data from both Google and non-Google sites. Google began combining personal information in Google accounts with individuals’ activities on non-Google sites that used Google technology to display advertisements. Because of this, users’ non-Google online activity became linked to Google-held identifying information, which had previously been kept separately. This linked information was used to improve Google’s advertising.

The ACCC alleged that Google did not properly inform consumers or get their informed consent through the notification. The ACCC also alleged that Google misled consumers about the change to its privacy policy. The ACCC claimed that the pop-up notification was misleading because consumers could not have known exactly what the changes were and how Google would use their information. Because of this, consumers did not give informed consent. Without the explicit, informed consent of the consumers, Google’s statement that it would not reduce consumers’ rights without their explicit consent was allegedly misleading.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims has stated:

The use of this new combined information allowed Google to increase significantly the value of its advertising products, from which it generated much higher profits. The ACCC considers that consumers effectively pay for Google’s services with their data, so this change introduced by Google increased the “price” of Google’s services, without consumers’ knowledge.