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Consumer data privacy breach spells lawsuit for Alphabet's Google in Australia

Consumer data privacy breach spells lawsuit for Alphabet's Google in Australia
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) filed a lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google on Tuesday, alleging that the company misled smartphone users on how personal location data was being collected, kept and used.

According to the regulator, the local Google unit for almost two years did not tell users of its Android operating system that they needed to switch off two settings - not one - if they did not want the company to keep their information.

“Google’s conduct caused users to understand that personal data about their location was not being obtained ... by Google when in fact personal data was being obtained,” the ACCC wrote in a Federal Court filing.

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“The misleading information provided by Google meant that users were not able to make an informed choice,” it said.

A Google spokeswoman said the company was reviewing the allegations and that it will fight the claims.The lawsuit is the first of several the Australian watchdog said it would pursue against the local arms of global technology companies like Google and social media firm Facebook.

ACCC has also called for tougher laws concerning privacy and content-sharing. It said the lawsuit against Google is seeking unspecified penalties and orders requiring the publication of corrective notices by Google. "We want declarations that the current behavior should not continue," ACCC head Rod Sims said, adding “We want significant penalties and ... we want Google to have to let people know what has gone on, so that people have a greater awareness of what data is actually being collected here and what it is being used for.”

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The matter is scheduled for a case management hearing in Sydney's federal court on November 14.

Big tech companies have been recently targeted in the EU under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

In January, France fined Google €50 million ($55.5 million) for breaches of privacy laws. Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner is also investigating the tech giant over a complaint alleging breach of privacy laws. Facebook agreed in July to a record-breaking $5 billion fine in the United States to resolve privacy concerns dating back to its use of people’s data in the 2016 presidential election.

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