ACCC: Google misled consumers about the collection and use of
April 16, 2021
Federal Court has found that Google and Google Australia Pty Ltd
misled consumers about personal location data collected through
Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018, in a
world-first enforcement action brought by the ACCC.
“This is an important victory for consumers, especially anyone
concerned about their privacy online, as the Court’s decision sends
a strong message to Google and others that big businesses must not
mislead their customers,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Today’s decision is an important step to make sure digital
platforms are up front with consumers about what is happening with
their data and what they can do to protect it.”
The Court ruled that when consumers created a new Google Account
during the initial set-up process of their Android device, Google
misrepresented that the ‘Location History’ setting was the only
Google Account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept
or used personally identifiable data about their location. In fact,
another Google Account setting titled ‘Web & App Activity’ also
enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable
location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on
The Court also found that when consumers later accessed the
‘Location History’ setting on their Android device during the same
time period to turn that setting off, they were also misled because
Google did not inform them that by leaving the ‘Web & App Activity’
setting switched on, Google would continue to collect, store and use
their personally identifiable location data.
Similarly, between 9 March 2017 and 29 November 2018, when consumers
later accessed the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting on their Android
device, they were misled because Google did not inform them that the
setting was relevant to the collection of personal location data.
The Court also found that Google’s conduct was liable to mislead the
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome in this world-first case.
Between January 2017 and December 2018, consumers were led to
believe that ‘Location History’ was the only account setting that
affected the collection of their personal location data, when that
was simply not true,” Mr Sims said.
that collect information must explain their settings clearly and
transparently so consumers are not misled. Consumers should not be
kept in the dark when it comes to the collection of their personal
The Court dismissed the ACCC’s allegations about certain statements
Google made about the methods by which consumers could prevent
Google from collecting and using their location data, and the
purposes for which personal location data was being used by Google.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications
orders, and compliance orders. This will be determined at a later
“In addition to penalties, we are seeking an order for Google to
publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain Google’s
location data settings in the future. This will ensure that
consumers can make informed choices about whether certain Google
settings that personal collect location data should be enabled,” Mr
Google LLC is a multinational company incorporated in the United
States with its headquarters in Mountain View, California. It is a
subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. Google Australia Pty Ltd is a subsidiary
of Google LLC and conducts certain aspects of Google LLC’s business
in Australia, including the distribution of Pixel phones.
The ACCC instituted proceedings against Google LLC and Google
Australia Pty Ltd in October 2019.