A 2021 court decision ruled that Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google’s settings for Android, which date back to five years, misled users about its collecting of location data and ordered the company to pay A$60 million (about $40 million+) in fines.

ACCC files suit against Google for misleading users on location data collection 

Australia’s Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) filed a lawsuit against Google and its Australian subsidiary in 2019 and went ahead to take the search engine giant to Court for making false claims to customers about the gathering and utilization of their private location information on Android smartphones between January 2017 and December 2018.

When Google told some Android phone users that the “Location History” choice was the only account setting impacting whether it gathered, stored, and used individually identifiable data regarding their location, the Court decided in April 2021 that Google had violated Australia’s Consumer Law.

As the ACCC pointed out in a news release today, a setting named “Web & App Activity” actually allowed Google to collect location data from Android customers and was turned on by default. Hence, a traditional dark pattern.

According to the agency, 1.3 million Google users in Australia are suspected of having viewed a screen that the Court determined violated Consumer Law.

ACCC chair, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, said, “This significant penalty imposed by the Court today sends a strong message to digital platforms and other businesses, large and small, that they must not mislead consumers about how their data is being collected and used.”

Google retained location information even when the setting was disabled 

Even if some users had the “Location History” setting disabled, Google, one of the biggest firms in the globe, was able to preserve the location information obtained through the “Web & App Activity” setting and utilize it to target advertisements to specific users.

Personal location information is critical and significant to some users, and some who viewed the depictions might well have made different decisions regarding the gathering, storage, and utilization of their location data.