The Australian Competitors and Shopper Fee has had a major win in opposition to Google. The Federal Court docket discovered Google misled some Android customers about how you can disable private location monitoring.

Will this determination really change the conduct of the massive tech corporations? The reply will rely upon the dimensions of the penalty awarded in response to the misconduct.


Learn extra: ACCC ‘world first’: Australia’s Federal Court docket discovered Google misled customers about private location knowledge


In concept, the penalty is A$1.1 million per contravention. There’s a contravention every time an affordable particular person within the related class is misled. So the full award might, in concept, quantity to many tens of millions of {dollars}.

However the precise penalty will rely upon how the courtroom characterizes the misconduct. We imagine Google’s conduct shouldn’t be handled as a easy accident, and the Federal Court docket ought to concern a heavy wonderful to discourage Google and different corporations from behaving this manner in future.

Deceptive conduct and privateness settings

The case arose from the representations made by Google to customers of Android telephones in 2018 about the way it obtained private location knowledge.

The Federal Court docket held Google had misled some customers by representing that “having Internet & App Exercise turned ‘on’ wouldn’t permit Google to acquire, retain and use private knowledge concerning the consumer’s location”.

In different phrases, some customers had been misled into considering they may management Google’s location knowledge assortment practices by switching “off” Location Historical past, whereas Internet & App Exercise additionally wanted to be disabled to offer this safety.


Learn extra: The ACCC is suing Google for deceptive tens of millions. However calling it out is less complicated than fixing it


The ACCC additionally argued customers studying Google’s privateness assertion could be misled into considering private knowledge was collected for their very own profit fairly than Google’s. Nonetheless, the courtroom dismissed this argument on the grounds that affordable customers wanting to show the Location Historical past “off”

would have assumed that Google was acquiring as a lot industrial benefit because it might from use of the consumer’s private location knowledge.

That is shocking and may deserve additional consideration from regulators involved to guard customers from firms “knowledge harvesting” for revenue.

How a lot ought to Google pay?

The penalty and different enforcement orders in opposition to Google will probably be made at a later date.

The goal of the penalty is to discourage Google particularly, and different companies like Google, from partaking in deceptive conduct once more. If penalties are too low they could be handled by wrongdoing companies as merely a “price of doing enterprise”.

Nonetheless, in circumstances the place there’s a excessive diploma of company culpability, the Federal Court docket has proven willingness to award increased quantities than up to now. This has occurred even the place the regulator has not sought increased penalties. Within the latest Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft v ACCC judgement, the complete Federal Court docket confirmed an award of A$125 million in opposition to Volkswagen for making false representations about compliance with Australian diesel emissions requirements.

The Federal Court found Google’s information about local data tracking was misleading