Australian regulator sues Google over expanded personal data use

Australian watchdog alleges that Google did not get explicit consent for a 2016 change to how it handles personal data.

The accusations follow a push by Australia to force Google and Facebook to share revenue they earn from content generated by domestic Australian media outlets [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

Australia’s competition regulator has launched court proceedings against Alphabet’s Google for allegedly misleading consumers about the expanded use of personal data for targeted advertising.

The case by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in Federal Court said Google did not explicitly get consent or properly inform consumers about a 2016 move to combine personal information in Google accounts with activities on non-Google websites that use its technology.

The regulator said this practice allowed the Alphabet Inc unit to link the names and other ways to identify consumers with their behaviour elsewhere on the internet.

Google did not immediately respond to a request by the Reuters news agency for comment.

The move by the ACCC comes amid heightened attention in much of the world on data privacy. Policymakers in the United States and Europe have recently stepped up their focus on how tech companies treat user data due to privacy concerns.

“We are taking this action because 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,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

The regulator alleges Google used the combined data to boost targeted advertising – a key source of income – and that it did not make facts about changes in its privacy policy clear to consumers.

The regulator did not say what it wanted the court to do, adding that it has filed the claim on a “confidential basis pending claims by Google”.

Revenue sharing

The accusations follow a push by Australia to force Google and Facebook to share revenue they earn from content generated by domestic Australian media outlets.

In June 2018, the ACCC launched an investigation into claims by local media companies that Google and Facebook were generating huge profits from advertising revenue on news they had not produced.

In December 2019, the ACCC delivered its finding and recommended a voluntary code of conduct should be formulated and gave the parties 11 months to make a deal.

But after the ACCC signalled negotiations had stalled, the government decided to act in April.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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