Google loses “Location History” court battle in Australia

The Australian Competitors & Client Fee (ACCC) has ruled that Google misled Android customers over its assortment of location knowledge. This ruling is in reference to the “Location History” controversy from a couple of years in the past. The Associated Press reported on the time that turning off the Location Historical past setting doesn’t disable all location-tracking options throughout each Google product.

The ACCC’s press launch states that from January 2017 to December 2018 (the AP article was printed in August 2018), “Google misrepresented that the ‘Location Historical past’ setting was the one Google Account setting that affected whether or not Google collected, stored or used personally identifiable knowledge about their location.” The ruling continues, saying, “In truth, one other Google Account setting titled ‘Net & App Exercise’ additionally enabled Google to gather, retailer and use personally identifiable location knowledge when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default.”

With the ACCC’s discovering of wrongdoing, it isn’t clear what the Australian authorities plans to do concerning the state of affairs but. The press launch says, “The ACCC is in search of declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders. This might be decided at a later date.” ACCC Chair Rod Sims added, “Along with penalties, we’re in search of an order for Google to publish a discover to Australian customers to higher clarify Google’s location knowledge settings sooner or later. This may make sure that customers could make knowledgeable selections about whether or not sure Google settings that… accumulate location knowledge needs to be enabled.”

Location Historical past used to solely have an effect on knowledge collected via Google Maps. This made sense again in 2012, when Location Historical past began out as a setting inside the Google Maps app. Google’s push for unified privateness settings, as seen within the “My Account” web page in 2015, meant that every one of those settings had been pulled right into a single web page, and “Location Historical past” misplaced the Google Maps context it used to have. In 2018, the AP requested, “Why does this setting in my account known as ‘Location Historical past’ not flip off location monitoring for my complete account?” and a giant controversy ensued.

Google changed the Location Historical past settings after the AP’s article, and right now the corporate says the function is “a Google Account–stage setting that saves the place you go along with each cellular machine.” Observe that this issues cellular gadgets solely, and lots of location knowledge nonetheless lives below the “Net and App Exercise” setting, which Google vaguely says covers some location knowledge “on Google websites, apps, and providers.” As this support article explains, the opposite two Google location settings you would possibly need to monitor down are Google Maps location sharing, which is for sharing your location with your pals, and Android’s Google Location Accuracy, (AKA Google Play Service’s Fused Location Provider), which tries to compute a low-power location from Wi-Fi and mobile knowledge with out having to fireplace up the costly GPS receiver. Google does not do anything in a unified, company-wide trend, and privateness settings are not any exception.

Google’s privateness settings are so imprecise and complicated that even Google’s own employees do not perceive them, and the settings have already been the topic of not less than one lawsuit.

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