Google misled users on location: court

Privacy-conscious Australians were misled into thinking turning off location history on their Google account would stop the tech giant collecting personal data about their location, the Federal Court has found.

The search, phone and advertising company had argued its warning displayed when setting up a Google account made it clear that it would still collect and use location data when location history was “off” but Web & App Activity was “on” and one of its apps was used.

But Federal Court Justice Thomas Thawley didn’t accept the warning was as clear as Google would have it.

Some users would have reached the correct conclusion but others, scanning through warnings and terms, would have concluded location history off meant the tech giant didn’t use their location data.

“True it is that, after a careful examination of the content of both screens, the conclusions Google urged might be reached,” the judge said.

“That is not the issue. The screens were read by users setting up the device.

“Such users, even ones with heightened privacy concerns, would not re-read screens with the kind of careful attention that has been necessary in considering the various arguments put by the parties.”

Justice Thawley found Google had engaged in conduct that was liable to mislead the public as to the nature, the characteristics, the suitability for their services.

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