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Google under investigation in Australia over alleged data collection offences

The investigating body, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has previously won an appeal against Google.

Published onMay 14, 2018

  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will reportedly investigate Google over data harvesting on Android.
  • Google is reportedly collecting around 1GB of data per month from Android devices in Australia, containing detailed location data.
  • Google’s privacy policy agreement covers data collection for its services, but there are questions about the transparency of the agreement.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) plans to investigate Google regarding data harvesting on Android phones. The news arrives from The Australian (paywall) (via The Guardian), following an investigation by software company Oracle.

Oracle apparently discovered that Google may be collecting around 1GB of user data per month from Android phones in Austrailia. This reportedly includes location information, even where location services are turned off, with no apps installed, and where no SIM card is inserted.

“Google has mapped IP addresses, Wi-Fi connection points, and mobile towers, which allow it to know where a device is connecting or attempting to connect without using the phone’s location service,” The Guardian reports.

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Australian Android users, of which there are estimated to be around 10 million, are also said to be paying their telecom providers to send this data.

We already know that Google uses location data as part of its services (and that you can be tracked without GPS activated). While some users may have been shocked when they first saw their location timeline or when they first heard their Google Assistant voice recordings, these kinds of features are discussed in Google’s privacy policy — which users must accept in order to use Google services.

Whether this is transparent enough to help users make informed decisions regarding how their data is handled has come into question, however.

Google Assistant countries in 2018

Major corporations are currently under scrutiny following the Facebook Cambridge Audio Audio Analytica scandal and their privacy policies are being more heavily examined.

The ACCC has a history of success when investigating major corporations — including Google. One of its complaints regarding deceptive advertising by Google was upheld in 2012. Video game company Valve, which owns the distribution platform Steam, also agreed to a global refund policy following an ACCC investigation.

Oracle, meanwhile, has tried to discredit Google a number of times in recent years and Ken Glueck, a senior VP at the company, has even been quoted by Recode as saying “Google stole Android from us.”

That’s all we know so far about the matter but we’ve reached out to Google for comment. We will update this article should we receive a response.

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