Google may face a massive fine in Australia after a court found the tech giant engaged in “misleading or deceptive” conduct, local media reported on Friday.
According to ABC News, the Federal Court said the company misled some mobile and tablet users about how it collects location data.
“I am satisfied that Google’s conduct assessed as a whole was misleading or deceptive of, or likely to mislead or deceive, ordinary members within the class identified by the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission], acting reasonably,” Justice Thomas Thawley said in his judgment.
“I conclude that Google’s conduct assessed as a whole conveyed a representation that having ‘web & app activity’ turned ‘on’ would not allow Google to obtain, retain and use personal data about the user’s location.”
The case against Google was filed by the ACCC “over on-screen representations it made on Android devices in 2017 and 2018.”
The watchdog claimed that users were misled about two specific Google settings related to collection of location data; “location history” and “web & app activity.”
It said the company continued to collect and use location data when “location history” was disabled but the other setting was left on, according to ABC News.
The court will decide the penalty later as it must determine “what it considers a breach and how many occurred,” the report said.
Google may face a fine of $1.1 million per breach, with Rod Simms, head of the ACCC, making it clear that the watchdog will seek a penalty in the “many millions.”
Simms hailed the court’s verdict and said “it was the first ruling in the world in relation to location data issues.”
A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the tech giant is “currently reviewing options, including a possible appeal.”
“We provide robust controls for location data and are always looking to do more – for example we recently introduced auto delete options for location history, making it even easier to control your data,” read the statement.