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Google to Pay Nearly $43M Over Collection of Android Location Data

Australian regulators accused the tech giant of misleading consumers about the collection and use of personal location data.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Australia's consumer watchdog agency said Friday that Google has been ordered to pay AU$60 million, nearly $43 million, by the Federal Court over the collection of location data on Android phones. 

The fine stems from legal action the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission initiated back in 2019. The ACCC accused Google of "making misleading representations to consumers" about the collection and use of personal location data on Android devices between January 2017 and December 2018. 

The court previously found that Google misled consumers into thinking "Location History" was the only setting that impacted whether the tech giant collected, kept and used location data, when in fact, the "Web & App Activity" setting also allowed Google to collect some of this information, according to the ACCC. An estimated 1.3 million people with Google accounts in Australia may have "viewed a screen found by the Court to have breached the Australian Consumer Law," the ACCC said. 

See Also: Yes, You Can Stop Google From Tracking You. Here's How

Google took steps in December 2018 to fix the information found to be misleading. On Friday, a spokesperson for Google said the company has worked to simplify the management of location data. 

"We've invested heavily in making location information simple to manage and easy to understand with industry-first tools like auto-delete controls, while significantly minimizing the amount of data stored," said the spokesperson in an emailed statement. "As we've demonstrated, we're committed to making ongoing updates that give users control and transparency, while providing the most helpful products possible."

Earlier this year, Google was sued by attorneys general from IndianaTexasWashington state and Washington, DC over its use of location data. They accused Google of using deceptive methods to stop people from protecting their privacy. 

"Google falsely led consumers to believe that changing their account and device settings would allow customers to protect their privacy and control what personal data the company could access," DC Attorney General Karl Racine said when the suits were filed in January. "The truth is that contrary to Google's representations it continues to systematically surveil customers and profit from customer data."

Google at the time said the cases were based on "inaccurate claims and outdated assertions" about it location settings.