Australian Regulator Says Google Misled Users Over Data Privacy

Australia’s competition regulator on Monday accused Alphabet’s Google of misleading consumers to get permission for use of their personal data for targeted advertising, seeking a fine “in the millions” and aiming to establish a precedent, presented The New York Times. 

The move comes as scrutiny grows worldwide over data privacy, with US and European lawmakers recently focusing on how tech companies treat user data.

In court documents, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accused Google of not explicitly getting consent or properly informing consumers of a 2016 move to combine personal information in Google accounts with browsing activities on non-Google websites.

“This change … was worth a lot of money to Google,” said commission chairman Rod Sims. “We allege they’ve achieved it through misleading behavior.”

The change allowed Google to link the browsing behaviour of millions of consumers with their names and identities, providing it with extreme market power, the regulator added.

“We consider Google misled Australian consumers about what it planned to do with large amounts of their personal information, including internet activity on websites not connected to Google,” Sims said. 

However, Google said the change was optional and consumer consent was sought through prominent and easy-to-understand notifications.